So one of the major pitfalls of being a writer is that it makes it damn near impossible to read anything as a reader anymore. We can’t NOT pull apart everything we read. We can’t UNsee that shallow, pantsed plot or the clunky language choices, or the fact that the author has described what the hero looks like 487 times since the start of the book. All the bad habits (whatever they are) become glaringly obvious. This makes us very picky readers, who are often totally unsatisfied by everything we pick up. Combine that with the raging popularity of some books and series that leave authors scratching their heads over WHY? and you have a lot of authors as readers who kinda don’t GET normal readers.
We’ll pick up those popular books and read them and pick them apart AS WRITERS and completely miss the boat on why they are so popular because we’re too busy focusing on all the dangling participles and redundant descriptions and plots that could have been group-though by a tribe of orangutans that we can’t see what these books give readers.
Susan introduced me to this term last week. It’s generally used for anime/manga, but it’s basically the word for giving the fans what they want and what they expect in any given subgenre. The example she used was that part of what works about Harry Potter is that Rowling is great at fan service and gives some kind of magical, world-special moment in every scene. Which make sense.
So all these crazy popular books that writers love to hate because they are technically imperfect in some way are all SOMEHOW delivering fan service. Readers are getting something they want and expect out of them. Doesn’t matter a wit about whether what they’re getting is what traditional publishing is telling writers THEY want out of our submissions. Doesn’t matter if what those readers are wanting/getting are even legitimate genre conventions or expectations based on everyone ELSE in the genre. It doesn’t even matter if there is no substance to speak of to the book (see, this is me analyzing like a writer again), it’s giving readers what they want. Given that romance fiction generated $1.438 BILLION in sales in 2012, outperforming every other category in the US book market, that’s a pretty damn good reason to get over ourselves and give them what they want.
Anyway, what I was actually thinking about this morning is that writers have much higher and DIFFERENT expectations of the things that they read than the normal reader, so we expect a greater level of fan service, and that’s what’s often leaving us so unsatisfied.
I’m reading two different contemporary romance novels right now. One in audio, one in e. Neither is ringing my bells. Both have aspects of things I like in CR–small town settings, messy families, concepts that I find appealing. But they’re still not working for me. In one, the hero is a Ken doll with a Magic Wang (per Twitter yesterday, we decided that this was the male equivalent of the Magic Hooha). All the women in this book are obsessed with this guy, including the otherwise sensible heroine who, despite her intent to resist him, can’t seem to overcome her hormones and just ended up getting to know him in the Biblical sense against a wall. I have not yet seen what the legitimate CONFLICT of this book is supposed to be and I’m fairly certain I’m nearing the midpoint. It seems entirely like braindolls and cutsie little illustrations of the town. The OTHER book has a totally superficial, secret-being-kept-because-that’s-driving-the-plot kind of conflict that’s just annoying me. And the deep psychological issues of both lead characters feel like melodrama rather than legitimate emotion (in the author’s defense…given my field is clinical psychology, I’m hella picky about that). So instead of getting ALL THE FEELS from these books that I KNOW others have loved, I’m getting ALL THE HEADBANGING.
So the question I pose to you, dear readers, is this: Is writing a book for other WRITERS different from writing a book for normal readers? Why or why not? DO writers expect a higher level of fan service than the average Jane?