In the wise words of a stranger/friend that I met two hours ago: sit your ass down, bitches, because I’m about to learn you some shit.
So, you think you can write…I’m trying to contain my derisive snort. You can’t fucking write, and let me tell you why.
First, there are a lot of people in the world; as a writer, your job is to somehow entertain them. Unfortunately, people aren’t clumps of cookie dough shaped by the same triangular cookie-cutter, so they’re not all entertained by the same thing.
However, let’s begin the discussion with a positive message: if lots of people have the same opinion about your thing, lots more people are going to have the same opinion.
Recently, I received a manuscript from a science fiction writer who was trying to re-invent the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Let’s call him Bob. Bob told me that he’d only gotten dumb reviews form his beta readers so far, and hoped that I, as a fellow science fiction writer, would be able to give him something better to work with. Honestly, I think he was looking for an ego boost. Well, I read it, and I found it dull, tedious, lacking direction, and not funny. Not exactly what he was hoping. I think if we’d been talking face-to-face, he would’ve started yelling at me…luckily, we were emailing, so he just used a lot of exclamation points.
Basically, if everyone jumps off a bridge, you should do it too, because it means that the billion-dollar lottery is waiting at the bottom. Look at this guy, hoping against hope that a different sample population would yield different results for his disappointing work-in-progress; he was wrong, because people don’t generally do “unique”. Your audience was born in the same culture of literature, and therefore prefer reading things that follow the same general format; otherwise, they get confused and hate everything. The same applies in reverse- if lots of people love your thing, lots more people will adore it. I realise this goes against my anti-cookie-cutter leading statement, but give me a second; there are exceptions to the rule of “herd-mentality-humans”.
Another thing that happened recently was that I started sending
my shit out to people. I’ve gotten a lot of good reviews, so I was feeling pretty good about myself. One day, I opened my inbox to find a whole rant from some beta reader my protagonist managed to piss off in 2000 words flat. She was screaming (silently, because emails don’t talk) about how romanticising murder was against her beliefs, and how aliens go against the Bible, and how boys with a sense of style who self-harm shouldn’t be made into likeable characters since they then become role models who corrupt her pure, innocent children.
Now, as soon as I saw the word “Bible” in her email, I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty (little did she know, there would be some gay sexiness later), but I was astonished at how vehemently opposed she was to both my premise and my protagonist, which all my other readers considered fucking amazing. They all rated my plot and character at least 7/10 in any given chapter; I even got a couple 10/10s in the especially angst-y scenes. Given all this positive feedback, how could this one woman hate my writing to this extent? How could she not realise that romanticising murder is the one perk of being a writer? How could she not understand that an edgy-punk style is sexy as hell? Although…given her religion, she might’ve been against the hell part of sexiness.
This might not be the best example since, well, she was probably not a big fan of the fictional genre (I can’t count how many books I’ve read where the characters kiss without being married- scandalous!); however, it does illustrate my point.
It doesn’t matter what a great writer you are, or how fabulous your story is; there will always be someone who will hate them, and you, and will then send you an angry email about corrupting society with your work. My advice is to not send them an angry email back about how their inflexible beliefs make you want to wrap them in rotting fish guts and then piss in their mouth. It comes across as rude.
Here’s what you should do: keep the email. Maybe the contents are stupid with faulty logic, but the anger that it arouses will yield some very zesty sex/fight scenes. I should know- I think Jay killed off at least three pigeons when I sent him hunting with a self-aiming laser gun.