Sunday, August 09, 2009

If It Gets Made, Someone Will Like It

I just spent a few days sitting at a table at Wizard World, a comicbook convention. Small compared to ComiCon, it still dwarfed the biggest mystery convention, Bouchercon, the biggest thriller convention, Thrillerfest, the biggest horror convention, World Horror Con, and it even beat Romantic Times in terms of crowd attendance.

Two semi-profound things struck me at this convention, as I watched thousands of people browse hundreds of booths.

1. There are a lot of talented people in the world. The pros, as seen walking through Artists Row and gawking at theiir incredible works on display. And the layman, sporting elaborate costumes that took more time to create than it takes me to write a novel.

2. After someone creates art, someone else, somewhere, somehow, will find it and embrace it.

Fandom is an interesting aspect of human experience. I believe there is a storytelling gene which we're wired into. I also believe that once we identify with something--it could be a mate, our kids, our friends, or something like a TV show, book, or movie--we take ownership of it.

At Wizard World, you could identify fans by sight. These folks dressed to express their love of genre, character, actor, writer, artist, or performer, either by advertising or imitating.

Yes, there were folks dressed as Jedi. And superheroes. But I'd say at least 90% of the attendees also sported tee shirts or outfits that loudly shouted what they liked.

How strange. And how obvious.

Identifying and aligning ourselves with some sort of artistic expression is part of what makes us human. We try something. We accept it. We embrace it. We defend it.

Could be sports. Could be religion. Could be Battlestar Galactica. It's what makes us, us.

Which brings me to creative endeavors.

If Wizard World taught me anything, it's that an audience--and corresponding marketing potential--exists for anything we as humans can dream up.

This is a Good Thing.

It's also a Hard Thing.

As an artist, the desire to express yourself is strong, but the desire to have the masses embrace your expression (and for you to benefit from it) is just as strong.

So how do we decide what to Do? How do we know if what we're Doing will find some sort of universal embrace?

We don't.

Star Wars, Harry Potter, Twilight--these things happened to strike universal chords.

Many artists disregard popular art. They belittle and berate the huge successes.

That's crazy. It's like disregarding your potential audience.

No artist deserves success, and no art is worthy of universal acceptance. But when it happens, it should bear closer examination.

On one hand, if you want to create something truly unique, chances are you'll find some people who will like what you've created.

On the other hand, if you want to reach a large audience, pay attention to the things that reach a large audience.

The point of writing is to be read. It can't hurt to pay attention to what people are reading. And I'm sure it is possible to do this while still being you.

13 comments:

Ty Johnston said...

Just wait until a Kilborn fan shows up dressed as Ajax. Can we say "restraining order?" ;-)

Karen from Mentor said...

@ Ty -A lot more of them could be dressed as Herb and only have to add the mustard stains.

Great post Joe.

Karen :0)

Amanda J. said...

Great post, and serious love for mentioning BSG. :)

frank zubek said...

Great Post!
A good example is Spongebob, which is basically just a talking sponge. And yet, it brings in billions every year.

Go figure.

Tim Brookes said...

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Cheers,
Tim Brookes

Kmuzu said...

The Creator has not given you a longing to do that which you have no ability to do.

-O. Marden.

Morgan Mandel said...

About embracing something you like - A while back I got hooked on going to Bingo, so I had to buy all the stuff that goes with it. In those days it meant magnetic chips, a magnet wand to pick them up after the game, all kinds of little statues to put near my cards for luck, a cool bingo bag, and lots of munchies to eat during the games. I'm not so much into Bingo since the casinos made their appearance, but I still remember how I totally embraced the experience.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

Jude Hardin said...

...if you want to reach a large audience, pay attention to the things that reach a large audience.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by that, Joe. Are you suggesting writers should follow trends?

I've always thought you should write what you love, and the passion will show. Writing in a genre just because it's hot at the moment will never result in anything better than mediocrity, IMO, and the bandwagon might be long gone by the time your book hits the shelves anyway.

Amber Argyle-Smith said...

I write about chickens. Chickens whose secret desire is to join the CIA. Their mission it is to infiltrate terrorist organizations and keep them awake at all hours of the day and night with loud crowing, thus breaking down their organization and forcing mistakes.

I think it'll be a nationwide bestseller--after all, who doesn't like chicken? (Vegetarians excluded).

Mary Stella said...

I'd love to see someone show up at your table dressed like Harry McGlade.

Someone dressed like Alex would make me run screaming in the other direction.

Joe Konrath said...

Are you suggesting writers should follow trends?

Not at all. I'm suggesting writers understand why some things become trends.

Does your work tap into some sort of universal collective unconscious? Don't you think that it should?

Jude Hardin said...

Does your work tap into some sort of universal collective unconscious? Don't you think that it should?

Sure. That's what all good fiction boils down to, really. But I think it has to happen organically. Dissecting another author's work and trying to incorporate his/her themes and archetypes into your own is only useful to a point. For example, I don't think J.K. Rowling ever sat down and methodically thought out how this plot point or that character trait would translate into acceptance by millions of kids.

Andrew Jack said...

I think what Joe means ( I hope) is not so much that we should write to trends but look at why some trends take off beyond all expectations. Jk Rowling didn't set out to be accepted by millipons of kids but she did write a really good book(s)that beautifully tapped everyone's desire for there to be more to the world that what we can see in front of our face. Of course she did a lot more than that, and Harry Potter is just really good anyway, but tapping that desire couldn;t have hurt.