Previously on Zanna Garrick, I’ve been rambling about the “for whom” writers write. I’ve focused more on the “I” and “I and them” parts of the spectrum because the former is the one I belong to, while the latter is one built so that it seems the optimal solution, the perfect blend of two extremes.
What about the “Them alone” part of the spectrum? Those writers who know how to craft a successful story even though they don’t really feel it flowing from their inner selves? Maybe I can’t quite grasp them because it’s a point of view so far away from my own, but presenting it like this makes it seems like it’s an easy and heartless path for success. Just write what pleases people, and success is guaranteed. Easy, right?
Except it’s not. There is no recipe guaranteed to have a story universally accepted, and this is for a very simple reason: people are so damn hard to please. We all have our own taste when it comes to media and stories, and as much as we as writers secretly wish for it, there is no such thing as a recipe for success when it comes to writing.
It doesn’t matter how much research you put into a story, how much respect you devote to any character you write, even the big bad ones (especially the big bad ones): it will hardly be enough. It’s inevitable because our audience is composed of people all different from each other, and they’ll have their own personal preference when it comes to stories.
But maybe it’s for the best: the fact that there is no easy path when it comes to pleasing the audience is what still makes storytelling a challenge even for those creators who lean towards the “Them alone” category. A talented “Them alone” creator is like the captain of a sailboard, who is capable of arranging the sails so that the wind pushes the boat where the captain wants to.
When I was a student and I had way more free time in my hands, I used to watch a lot of tv shows (way more than I do now) and roam many related discussion forums. In years and years of browsing, I’ve never come across a discussion board where all the comments agreed on the slightest thing. It was a full slate of speculations (the most interesting to read) or a full slate of more or less nit-picky critiques to various choices in terms of plot, dialogue, or whatever.
What does it tell us? The first thing coming into mind is that there is no “fill-in the blanks” recipe for a worldwide loved story. Sorry, dear “Them alone” writer, you have to do your homework like the rest of us. But, if we think more carefully, it shows exactly the difference between a writer such as myself (I and I) and a “Them alone” one.
Facing a full slate of conflicting comments, my first reaction as a creator would be on the line of “Well, I can’t please you all. So I’m doing it my way”: I just close my ears shut and put all myself in what I’m writing, hoping my audience will appreciate my originality (if any) and story for what it is.
A “Them alone” creator, instead, ideally sits down, scrolls through the whole page, and looks for a solution to blend their own point of view with what looks like the most reasonable point of view. And it’s even harder than that because before a piece of media is received by its audience there is no easy way to tell if it will work other than analyzing the current trends and hoping for the best. I don’t know if I’d be able to go through something like this, and this is why “Them alone” folks deserve my highest respect even though I don’t share their point of view.