1. Rick n Morty
    Offline

    Rick n Morty Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2016
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    36

    Stressed out trying to please my audience

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rick n Morty, Jul 17, 2016.

    A lot of my posts on this forum involve me being really stressed and typing in caps lock and bold...simply because I don't know what it takes to please people.

    First, there's originality.

    I was always told that there's no such thing as true originality, every story takes cues from other works, and that being original requires taking a previous idea and doing it in a new way. But, judging by the Zootopia thread, even superficial similarities to other characters is enough to be considered a carbon-copy.

    For instance, it doesn't matter if the only similarity the villain of my idea had to the villain of Zootopia is the motives. He can be absolutely NOTHING alike otherwise, but he's still a carbon-copy just because of the motivation. I guess the villain of Zootopia is a carbon-copy of Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame if we follow that logic. I would talk more about how little in common Edgar Eaglestein has to the Zootopia villain, but it would require spoiling Zootopia, and I don't know how to use the spoiler folder feature.

    Let's also ignore the fact that my idea didn't have animals going savage and reverting back to their wild nature, and the fact that Zootopia itself takes cues from films like Robin Hood and Cats Don't Dance. Anyways...

    After the Zootopia incident, I temporarily lost my confidence and was afraid to post any new ideas, because even the most superficial similarities to other stories would instantly make my story a carbon-copy.

    And then there's character development.

    People on the "does every protagonist need to change" thread were pretty mixed. Sometimes they pointed to characters from other works who didn't need to change, sometimes people said that EVERY protagonist needs development and the ones that don't are automatically bad characters, and sometimes they took a third option saying that I should just let the plot do the work and not worry about it myself.

    The thing is, sometimes I just can't think of appropriate development for the protagonist. Look at the premise for my dinosaur story, for instance. Can you think of any kind of development that the story calls for from Alex?

    Adding to the confusion is a friend on deviantART who said that, while she liked the rest of it, she thought that Alex was a generic nice guy protagonist, which made me really upset, because I just can't think of any way to add to Alex's characterization that the story demands. She suggested adding flaws for him, but I couldn't think of anything that fit the story. Everything I came up with was an obvious attempt to pander to critics.

    Someone on the aforementioned protagonist development thread said that I don't need to force stuff I don't truly want to write just to please my audience, but then how will people enjoy my stuff?

    Don't get me wrong, I can totally take constructive criticism. A lot of times I end up agreeing with it. I got some very helpful comments from other users when I first posted my dinosaur story. (Cletus became an African grey parrot instead of a crow because they said crows are overused as bad guys, for instance.)

    But sometimes the criticism is really vague. (Saying "your protagonist is bland and boring" without telling me how to make the protagonist LESS bland and boring, for instance.) Or sometimes they just plain out bash my work. (Which the Zootopia thread consisted of.)

    It's pretty hard to have confidence in my work when I can't figure out how to please my audience. Anyone have any tips on what to do to handle this "criticism stress"?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,997
    Likes Received:
    5,506
    One issue on the Zootopia comparison is that "sentient animals who form human-like societies" is a very rare fictional situation. So if you create another story with that setting description, you'll inevitably be compared to the very small number of other such stories. Whereas, "Somebody murdered in New York City" is a very common fictional situation, so you can get away with some quite strong similarities to other stories, without anyone really being aware of it.

    So one way to drag yourself away from all the comparisons could be to be to abandon the sentient animals and instead go with a story with humans. I realize that may not be what you want to do at all, but it's something to have in the bag of ideas.

    Otherwise, I think that it's inevitable that any idea will have a bunch of flaws, and any idea will be criticized by anyone you ask to comment on it, and the criticism may or may not point to actual flaws, and it's all just part of developing an idea. It's not a problem unique to you. I realize that probably doesn't help, but...
     
  3. Rick n Morty
    Offline

    Rick n Morty Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2016
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    36
    Yeah, I remember when Zootopia itself was being compared to Robin Hood, Cats Don't Dance, and Kung Fu Panda. Do you consider Zootopia a carbon-copy of those films?
     
  4. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I would also ask myself if my story (and its indicated similarities to other works) is coming right on the heels of something popular? With a large enough battery of things one has read, anyone can draw endless parallels between countless stories. There has to be more than one book/book franchise where a pretty girl is the owner of dragons, right? Lessa of Anne Mccaffrey's Pern books immediately comes to mind. There are strong similarities between her story and that of Deanerys, but were I to write a story right now, with all the GoT fanraving still in foaming-at-the-mouth fever pitch, if I were to write a story with a girl who has dragons, no one is going to listen to me when I point out that there have been other such books and that Martin's story isn't unique and blah, blah, blah... I can argue that 'till the cows come home. What I can't really do is flush away the impression others will have that I've ripped off Martin, even though for me, kick-ass girls with dragons don't live anywhere near Westeros. They live on Pern, and when the Red Star is in the heavens they go to do battle with the thread that falls from the sky like ribbons of death and destruction.

    In a word: timing.
     
    Catrin Lewis and Simpson17866 like this.
  5. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,997
    Likes Received:
    5,506
    Unfortunately, I haven't seen any of them, so I can't say.

    I did just see The Secret Life of Pets, and found myself constantly comparing it, unfavorably, with Bolt. Dog adores girl, dog temporarily loses girl, there's an irritable cat that's sometimes helpful... Edited to add: And lots of theme about owners abandoning pets and pets being insecure in their owners' love.

    But I did enjoy it, it does seem to be getting fairly good reviews, and the (small) theater was just about sold out.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,997
    Likes Received:
    5,506
    Oops. Yes, indeed, in the wrong thread. Now, what did I post in that thread?
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2016
  7. Rick n Morty
    Offline

    Rick n Morty Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2016
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    36
    So, like the Megamind vs. Despicable Me comparisons back in 2010?
     
  8. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Possibly in the wrong thread? o_O:-D
     
    ChickenFreak likes this.
  9. NigeTheHat
    Offline

    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2008
    Messages:
    764
    Likes Received:
    581
    Location:
    London
    In general: you'll never please everyone. Stop trying. Write a story that one person loves, and you'll find an audience that likes the kind of things you write. It might not be a big audience, but it will exist.

    On a couple of the specifics:

    Character development is one of the things that makes a story interesting. It's possible to write a good story without it, but if you can't think of any development that would make sense in the story's context and people are finding it boring then... maybe you've just got a boring story, and you should probably fix that.

    On vague criticism: It's not your reader's job to tell you how to fix the problem, only that the problem exists. Working out whether you think it's worth making that problem go away, and if so, how to do it - that's your job. That's why you're the one doing the writing.
     
    bonijean2 and Brindy like this.
  10. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Maybe, I guess. Not really into those kinds of movies, so I don't really know.

    More to the point, what saves Martin from the same sort of indictment is that as popular as Anne Mccaffrey's Pern books are (were?), Lessa makes her appearance in the 1968 publication of Dragonflight. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire was published in 1996. Almost 30 years of time between the two publications. I don't know if you're a fan of Martin's books (or the show), but read the bio of Lessa at the link I gave and compare it to the story of Daenerys. Each was meant to be a ruler. Each was displaced by a coup. Each lead a shitty life of drudgery at the hands of those that should be bowing to her. Each finds a way out from under this. Oh, and look, they each do it with the help of some dragon muscle backing them up. :whistle:

    No one is screaming that Martin is ripping off Mccaffrey because the demographic of readers for Martin's books aren't usually familar with Mccaffrey's work which came much, much earlier.
     
  11. Rick n Morty
    Offline

    Rick n Morty Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2016
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    36
    Grrrrrr...

    THAT is the reason I'm so stressed! I DON'T know how to fix these problems!

    *hyperventilates and has a panic attack before flipping out and destroying everything in the room*

    Sorry for the outburst. Anyways...

    You know how films will have multiple writers on them, and these writers will bounce ideas off of each other to see which ones work the best? I wish I could be part of one of those.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2016
  12. NigeTheHat
    Offline

    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2008
    Messages:
    764
    Likes Received:
    581
    Location:
    London
    So work it out. Writing a good story involves solving problems. How do you get your protagonist from A to B? How do you show that Brad's in love with Janet without beating the reader over the head with it? No-one knows how to do these things when they first pick up a pen or sit down at the computer. But they try different scenarios, they run through different what-ifs until they find one that works. If you're expecting it all to just work, you're going to be disappointed.

    Your protagonist is bland and boring. So maybe you could give them a secret. Maybe you could make them have a hard time fitting into society. Maybe you could give them a more distinctive voice. All of these are options and there are many more - try them out, see how they affect your story and what else needs to change, because this stuff usually has follow-through effects.

    But you don't have to know what to do. You just have to try things. It works a fuckton better than hyperventilating and flipping out.
     
    Sifunkle likes this.
  13. Brindy
    Offline

    Brindy Contributing Member Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2016
    Messages:
    404
    Likes Received:
    394
    Location:
    Somerset, UK
    There is no magic formula, or everyone would be writing to the formula and making a success of it. Writing is not a tick-box exercise. The variety of books exists because everyone does it differently. What works for a reader is very difficult to identify. When something works for lots of readers, suddenly many similar works will flood the market as people copy themes, characters, plots but alter something slightly so it can be deemed a different story. This has been happening over and over. It seems to me that you are too focused on pleasing other people when you need to work on what pleases you. You must have books you have read that you enjoy and others you don't. Think what is different in the ones you enjoy. Is it the depth of character, the interaction between characters, the way the plot unfolds? All these will help you form a manner for your own story-telling.

    And remember you will never please all of the people all of the time. Take information and advice on here and other sites and use it to grow your craft, not as a manual to produce a best-seller.
     
    bonijean2 likes this.
  14. Rick n Morty
    Offline

    Rick n Morty Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2016
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    36
    Yes! Thanks Brindy! THAT'S the kind of advice I'm looking for!

    Whenever I write, I take influence from films I like, and I think about what those films did right. I also look at films I DON'T like and think about what those films did WRONG. As long as I'm doing just that, it should be fine, right?
     
  15. Brindy
    Offline

    Brindy Contributing Member Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2016
    Messages:
    404
    Likes Received:
    394
    Location:
    Somerset, UK
    If you are writing based on films, you will miss the depth needed for written work. Films have the benefit of visual that written work doesn't, so you have to learn to write in a way that gives the reader the knowledge they need, that makes the characters real for them. That's why I find reading books more relevant than watching films. I love watching films and taking influence from them is fine, but reading will help you with your writing skills if that is where you are struggling.
     
  16. Rick n Morty
    Offline

    Rick n Morty Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2016
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    36
    Yeah, funny thing is, most of my ideas I don't picture as books. I picture them as movies. I make them in written form at first, though.

    Will they ever be movies? Maybe, maybe not. It's fun to imagine them as films anyway. A lot of times I come up with them for fun.
     
  17. Brindy
    Offline

    Brindy Contributing Member Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2016
    Messages:
    404
    Likes Received:
    394
    Location:
    Somerset, UK
    I totally agree. My only concern with my first novel is whether it will be Disney or Pixar that contacts me first :)
     
  18. HistoricalScience
    Offline

    HistoricalScience Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2015
    Messages:
    198
    Likes Received:
    160
    Could be both! (Disney owns Pixar :))
     
    Brindy likes this.
  19. Rick n Morty
    Offline

    Rick n Morty Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2016
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    36
    Well, thanks for the help, guys. Sorry about my breakdown in the middle of the thread. I feel a lot better now.

    Brindy, you gave me very good advice especially. I think I'll try to take it from here. :)
     
    Simpson17866 and Brindy like this.
  20. Brindy
    Offline

    Brindy Contributing Member Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2016
    Messages:
    404
    Likes Received:
    394
    Location:
    Somerset, UK
    Haha, I didn't know that. Maybe I should stick with Aardman, as I only live half an hour from them. Dreams!

    @Rick n Morty - happy to help.
     
  21. ddavidv
    Offline

    ddavidv Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Messages:
    357
    Likes Received:
    240
    Location:
    Pennsylvania, USA
    I write this way too. I see them as movies, or scenes of movies, in my head which I then translate to the written page. Some of my best 'scenes' were developed this way.

    I did not read your entire post of fears. You really only need to write for one customer: yourself. Write what you like and what interests you. Stop worrying about readers or markets. YOU like what you write about. Rest assured others will like it too. Whether it is a lot of others or just a handful really isn't why you should be writing.
     
  22. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,758
    Likes Received:
    1,299
    @Rick n Morty Good luck!

    (also regarding your animal story, it sounds like the best advice would be to hold on to it for a while instead of just never doing it ;) )
     
  23. bonijean2
    Offline

    bonijean2 Contributing Member Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2016
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    100
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest USA
    Or try to get your ideas from real people, places, things, personal adventures, vacations, trips to the zoo , anything unique and different, etc.
     
  24. NiallRoach
    Offline

    NiallRoach Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2015
    Messages:
    389
    Likes Received:
    280
    Location:
    The middle of the UK
    I don't think you're trying to please your audience, I think you're trying to phrase all audiences.

    Is your target audience people who will toss out anything with animals because it's too similar to Zootopia? No, presumably it is those people who want something at least basically similar.

    Learn to ignore opinions of they're obviously not the people you're writing for, and suddenly it's not so hard to please the remaining ones.
     
  25. Rick n Morty
    Offline

    Rick n Morty Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2016
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    36
    Thanks for the extras tips. Anyways...

    The "figure it out for yourself" logic that NigeTheHat gave me really made me frustrated because, to steal a quote from Calvin and Hobbes, that kind of thing doesn't teach you how to write. It teaches you how to HATE to write.

    With that said, I really like the tips involving writing for myself, thinking about what I want to see rather than what others want to see. For instance, my magnum opus, the idea mentioned in the tapir thread, I came up with because I wanted to see a traditionally animated Disney or Don Bluth-style film set in Southeast Asia, and I wanted it to have a similar tone to films such as The Secret of NIMH, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Prince of Egypt, which are some of my favorite films.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.

Share This Page