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Negative “Fans”

Anne Rice is having an interesting sort of discussion with her Facebook followers about how the Internet world enables obsessive negative “fans” to launch sustained attacks against authors they dislike. Rice asks the question, “Why bother?”

Authors deal with a lot of criticism; it’s part of the package when putting your work out there. In a way, criticism is good. For one thing, an open-minded author might learn a thing or two, or at least have something to think about when reading reviews of his or her work–whether the reviews be good or scathing. And of course you’ve heard that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. People criticizing your work means someone is reading your work. Always a good thing. And even hurtful reviews might garner interest, so that other people are tempted to read your work themselves and form their own opinions.

Okay, but then there are these singular individuals (though the bigger the author, the more of these there seem to be) who make it a sort of mission to berate an author’s work. These are the negative fans Rice talks about. These are the people who send letters and e-mails to the author detailing everything that’s wrong with every book–even if the fan hasn’t read them. Not one letter but dozens or even hundreds. The fan might also write about the author’s personal life, might take the author to task for any number of his or her life choices and so on. This person starts websites that are designed to slam the author, they go on chat boards and leave nasty comments, or they write long-winded Amazon.com reviews about how awful the books and the author are.

“Why bother?” Rice asks, and there are as many reasons why a person might do this as there are people who do do it. Some people simply can’t stand to see something they disagree with succeed; they have a sort of allergic reaction to what becomes popular and mainstream. They feel a need to show they are different, somehow more selective (elite) than the average person. Some of them–I’m sure in Rice’s case–have “religious” reasons for antagonizing a writer whose books they feel are somehow agents of evil. Some of them like the idea that they have a platform and are getting attention. It gratifies something inside them.

I studied fan psychology as part of my screenwriting degree (that probably seems strange, but there’s actually only so much screenwriting one can do in college, so I had to have an additional focus). As a fan myself, I found it interesting on a variety of levels. And certainly, as Rice posits, the Internet has made it all that much easier to latch on to something, whether it be pro or con. It’s easy to start a site or a blog, easy to search and find others who like or dislike something or someone, easy to form or join groups, etc. But the flip side is that there’s that much more for authors to sift through, too, and what’s funny is how these negative fans start to feel like they’ve made a connection when, realistically, the author they are hounding may or may not have noticed at all. Or even if she’s noticed, it’s just as easy to discount the ravings of one person online in the clamor of all the other “voices.” So while the Internet works for the negative fan, it also works against him.

I should know, since I spent a year writing letters to Rob Thomas and Matchbox Twenty on my old site Letters to Rob. I did it as a lark, mind you, not because I really had any particular beef to pick with any of them. In fact, I very much like their music (as unpopular as that makes me with my friends). It’s strange because you have to really like something or someone–or want to like them–to be able to feel betrayed by them. So negative fans must have had some expectation that was not met, some disappointment, in order to generate the kind of hostility involved. Though sometimes the perceived betrayal is that a friend, or many friends, or the whole world likes something that the negative fan cannot embrace, and so that person lashes out in frustration. The fan feels misunderstood and wants to enumerate the reasons he or she cannot be brought into the fold, the circle of fandom, that everyone else seems to inhabit.

I didn’t read Harry Potter for a long time, even though everyone else was insisting it was wonderful, I must read it, etc. And of course the more people told me I had to, the less I wanted to. But I didn’t start writing letters to J.K. Rowling about how she was ruining the world with her stupid wizard books. (I’m sure someone did, but it wasn’t me.) The negative fan that takes that extra step–some kind of switch flips inside them and they feel that need to go after whatever or whoever is irking them. Whether it’s that “God told them to” or they just hate that something or someone is more successful than they are–these fans are the people who often say they “could have written something better”–who knows? I would tell them not to waste such energy in fighting someone who has no interest in fighting them. I would tell them that if they really could write something better, do it. Why not try to be successful in your own right instead of detracting from someone else’s shine.

But as ever, it’s easier to ride the coattails of someone else’s hard work. These negative fans are still riding the author’s train, even if they are sitting in the very back.

Another Teaser Tuesday

In case you missed it last time I did this (and I don’t always remember to do it every Tuesday), this one comes from Should Be Reading. The object here is to pick up your current read, open to a random page, and post two teaser sentences–but no spoilers!

I just finished The Ghost and am now finishing up Bespelling Jane Austen, which has four pseudo-adaptations of Austen’s work recast with paranormal elements. I opened at random to page 128, the story “Northanger Castle” by Colleen Gleason. Here, then, are the two teaser sentences:

She tried to settle in her seat and even to watch the play, but Caroline could not keep her thoughts from wandering hither and yon. She must investigate, if only to ease her own mind.

Underground

Been underground for a bit working on this new story. Looks to be a novella, possibly in the paranormal romance genre. No wizardry kind of stuff, just the slightly surreal/magical realism kind of thing. Sort of in the vein of Sarah Allen Addison maybe.

So I had originally been planning to hammer out the television spec during my upcoming weekend in New York, but now I’m wondering if I won’t just keep on with this story. Not sure I could finish it, though. I could try, but I might actually get farther with the script, and it would feel good to have completed (or nearly completed) something. Decisions, decisions.

And After All That . . .

I’ve gotten very little writing done the past couple days. Been so busy with life and children, and getting over a cold at the same time. Hopefully I’ll get back into the swing, soon. I’ve still got people waiting for more Sherlock besides . . .

The news from London also has me feeling sad. I love London and would live there if I could; as it is, I try to go regularly to get writing done because I find London has good vibe for my creativity. And everyone there is always so nice to me, despite my being a stupid American. So I hate to think of that beautiful city having such a difficult time.

Oh, and then I’ve been trying Google+ but I can’t find any use for it so far. Nothing that Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn don’t do for me. I mean, I’m supposedly part of a G+ writing circle, but the feedback is weak. Maybe I need better members or whatever. I guess I have found G+ okay as a news aggregate. But then there’s just so much junk that fills the streams too. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. If so, the interface should be more intuitive.

Update

So “Warm Bodies” has been sent off to two competitions and one potential publisher.

I’m working on a new short story and I’m really liking the way it’s coming along.

And in three weekends, I intend to spend my time in New York pounding out my television script. (Though Sherlock and I will also take time to see a bit of the city and get some pictures.)

So far August is shaping up to be a good month. Now if I could only shake this cold . . .

Projects

So this is what I have staring me in the face at the moment:

  • Stage play – short form
  • Stage play – long form
  • Spec script – television
  • Spec script – full-length feature film
  • Short story

And this doesn’t include stories I’ve already written that are in various stages of being submitted. Nor does it include two half-finished novels, though I don’t know when I’ll get back to those.

“Warm Bodies”

Finished my 10-minute play today. Well, one of them. I had started a second one and may also try to finish it at some point.

It’s been ages since I’ve written for the stage. Not so different from screenwriting as far as style goes; you know, lots of dialogue and minimal direction. I leave that to the directors and the details to the art department. I tell a story and their job is to make it happen. Even my prose tends to be narrowly focused, and the most common criticism I used to receive in writing workshops (for prose) was that I didn’t always put in a lot of details.

The thing is, a lot of directors don’t want a ton of detail. And even if you give it, they’ll probably change it anyway. What I do like about this play that I’ve written–its title, like this post, is “Warm Bodies”–is that it can be interpreted any number of ways, I think. The director and the actors can have fun with it, “play” with it.

I’m sending it off to a competition. The deadline isn’t even until October 1, but when they sent me an e-mail and asked me outright to consider submitting something, I sort of had a kindling of an idea and ran with it. We’ll see how it goes!

On the Road

It’s difficult for me to write at home. With three kids, interruptions abound. My husband also has a tendency to wander in and out of the room, and I can’t write when other people are around. All in all it means slow progress in the home office.

Which is why I like to take trips to go and write. Alone. I actually really enjoy traveling solo, and the fact that it facilitates my writing is sort of a bonus. A long weekend here and there can be good (I’ll be in NYC August 26-28), but to hammer out something longer–a first draft of something–I really need two weeks to a month at least. This is often difficult to schedule, but so worth it. And I can do the bite-size work of editing and polishing while at home.

As it stands now, I plan to be back in London at the end of February to mid-March. But it seems like such a long wait! In the meantime, I’ll try and try to squeeze out the words as well as focus on sending stuff out to publishers.

Registrations and Competitions

So a few days ago I went ahead and registered on the Writers & Artists site. But they still haven’t approved my profile picture for some reason . . . Not sure what is going on there, but I would hope if they had a reason for not approving and posting the picture, they’d at least let me know.

I also just put a couple chapters of a YA novel I started writing up on You Write On. I’m not sure how much I trust their “competition” since I noticed after the fact that there were ads to have them publish your work, but it’s free, so why not? I’m open to a number of avenues for my work. And as my fortune cookie told me last night:

Opportunities multiply when they are seized but die when they are neglected.