Everyone wants to be liked, to have validation that they are a good person. And for writers we want to be validated that our books are good people too. When a book of ours gets sold it’s the validation we seek and suddenly everything is right with the world, everyone loves us, and life is a bowl of cherries.
(Yeah I know, well then your advance isn’t as big as you’d hoped, you get a few bad reviews, maybe your editor doesn’t pick up a new contract, you and your agent part ways. We won’t go there today ;).)
But the bottom line is, you want everyone to love your work.
That’s a very bad idea.
Now bear with me, having tons of folks love their work certainly didn’t hurt Rowlings or Meyers. However, in both cases it could be argued that those two authors created books that appealed to them, that were specific, not general, and just happened to strike a chord across a wide group of readers. They didn’t set out to build something EVERYONE would love.
When a creative endeavor takes place, the thinking of some folks is to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. This isn’t really a good game plan as it can end up washing your work out.
For today’s example, I’ll be using a recently cancelled TV show (curses, Fox TV execs!) Terra Nova. This show had an interesting premise, in 2149 Earth is pretty much thrashed, we’ve destroyed our environment. Somehow (ok, the science is iffy, but bear with me) they find a crack in time to an alternative past. Hoping to save some of humanity, they send small groups to the time of the dinosaurs to set up a colony. They populated it with promising characters too: the tough, hard ass with a past commander, his tough female second in command. The hot rebel who breaks the rules to bring his family of five (that’s one reason he’s in trouble- only allowed 2 kids in 2149- they broke the rule) to the past. Attractive and smart mom, cute little girl, smart and witty teen daughter, hunky and petulant teen son.
The sound you hear is that of too many demographics being aimed at.
The show was fun, not a change your life exciting, but fun. To be honest I am pissed Fox just cancelled it. But I do think they spread themselves too thin in terms of what the show was supposed to be. Throwing the family in there makes it aimed “Family”, yet it wasn’t very consistently family, for example a main character was shot point blank.
Had they constructed it without the family unit, they may have lost some of the emotion (at least that’s what I’m thinking they’re thinking). The kids weren’t bad, don’t get me wrong, but they created a different type of show- is it family? Rough and tumble adventure? A mystery? A teen angst show?
The problem with TV and movies is that they are created by committee- LOTS of committees. Sometimes that can kill what should have been a very good show. As authors, it’s just us (until agents and editors get involved, but it’s not the same). But we can still have the problem of trying to appeal to TOO many folks.
So how do we get around it? ALWAYS write from your heart, don’t worry about being “liked” if it feels true to you, and never try and follow trends. It may or may not help you get published, but it will make sure your writing is yours- and not part of everything under the sun. It’ll make sure you won’t be loved by everyone.
Which is a very good thing.