Sunday, May 29, 2016

Input And Ignorance

I recently read an interview with George RR Martin, the author writing the A Song Of Fire And Ice series.  He said he used to check out fan blogs and comment boards and found that a couple of astute fans had figured out the ending to his story by picking up on the subtle clues he left.

This was obviously fun for Martin at first, but he now says he no longer visits such sites because he didn’t want to be influenced by what fans may say.  Instead, he wanted his work to stand independently, and if it meshed with fan insight, that was fine, but it wouldn’t be the controlling factor.  It got me thinking – how much does input influence our work?

As writers, we come across ideas every day.  We can say that nothing influences us but our imaginations, but that would be an obvious lie.  The opposite is likely true – we’re influenced by more than the average person because we’re always looking for the next bit of inspiration for our stories.  But maybe that could work against us in several ways.

The first is on the story itself.  As the author, the vision of the storyline has to be yours, and yours alone, or it risks becoming thin.  By reading too much of what the fans think will happen in an unfinished story, we run the risk of becoming reliant on their input.  This can affect the direction of the story, and we are now little more than someone transcribing what other people want.  Additionally, what if they either run out of ideas or those ideas suck?  For the story alone we need to keep our thoughts independent of fans since every fan will have his or her own ideas about where the story should go.

Second, we run the risk of a lawsuit, especially if we gain any kind of success.  Like it or not, there are all kinds of unsavory people out there who want to take credit for your achievement and grab some of the reward.  By deriving stuff from fans, you run the risk at least one of them will want in on your action(in some cases, rightfully so).  This is so bad at the highest ranks that some have said they will no longer comment on how another book or idea may have influenced them since they risk a lawsuit every time.  It’s easier for them to say they've never heard of the novel.

I get it – it’s fun at first to see how some folks are drawn to our work.  However, our independence is what made our work unique to begin with.  Keep it that way by staying away from what may unduly affect you.

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