Monday, March 14, 2016

There is good and bad out there and we all know it's out there but no one can tell the difference between them.

As writers, we know that one of the rules we need to follow is brevity. The industry as a whole pounds this topic. Keep things brief. Whittle down everything so that there's only the best content for the readers. It all makes sense if you think about it. No one wants things to drag on forever, and no one wants a story that never ends, right? So write a story that is brief, unless you don't write a story that is brief, and everyone loves a story that never ends. Wait, what?

Why do we have stories that never end in a world that says this is exactly what you shouldn't do and is basically the reason why authors need editors? Unless of course, chopping content is a meaningless exercise, and there are people that actually want demand that content. I guess the trouble is finding out who wants that content, and those who don't are just part of the problem because they probably didn't like the story anyway.

There are so many examples of this. Brandon Sanderson's new book is so huge that he expressed worry on social media that if it got too much bigger the publisher might break it into two books. Of course fans were like, "we want it to be endless...." It makes me shake my head, and then I realize how much endless content there is that I consume. Heck, why do I even want something that I love to end? Would anyone choose to end a romance with a paramour? Nope.

Supernatural on the CW is getting renewed for its twelfth season, when the story really ended with season five. The Walking Dead is probably endless, but at least they've got a way to keep the story fresh by killing off and replacing the cast with new ones (and they keep coming up with more story that somehow manages to be more shocking than anything you've seen before). Then there's The Simpsons, and I have no idea what season they are on. Same for South Park.
Does "Jumping the Shark" actually matter? For some stories, apparently not.
George R.R. Martin originally intended his fantasy, The Song of Ice and Fire, to only be a trilogy. We know how that worked out. And let's face it, Piers Anthony with his endless Xanth novels and Laurell K. Hamilton with her Anita Blake series have no end in sight. All of this goes into my brain and makes me think that (as writers) we only really need to pare down our words if we have no readers. Once people get to liking what you write, then you can just keep churning out stuff and they'll just keep consuming. That's the way people are. We latch onto things we like and keep going back.

So maybe writers should just remember that you only need to keep track of word count if no one reads your work because no one is interested in what you have to say. But once you get people who are interested in your characters and story, you can just write and write and write and it doesn't seem to matter. J.K. Rowling knows this first hand. She could write Harry Potter stuff until the end of time and none of it would matter. So in a way, ending things has nothing to do with a fan base and everything to do with an author. Maybe what I'm talking about here is "integrity" versus "selling out." Integrity means you stop when you're done with a story even if it's super popular. An example is "Breaking Bad."  Selling out is when you realize that you've created a money-printing franchise that people are interested in, and you just keep churning out material to get a paycheck.

I suppose in the end I'm just interested in the phenomenon itself. That is, I'd like an answer as to why it's okay if some stories never have an ending and why there are so many people who tell you exactly the opposite. I suppose there isn't a good answer unless you accept the fact that people have a hard time figuring out what's actually good. Maybe that's the problem. There is "good" and "bad" out there, and we all know it's out there, but no one can tell the difference between them.


  1. Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy should have quit 10 years ago. At this point I think the actors will die of old age before they pack it in.

  2. Knowing when to quit is far more important. Not that movie studios seem to care.
    A series can go on far too long. I gave up on the Wheel of Time series because it didn't look like it was ever going to end.
    And I believe the Simpsons is in its twenty-seventh season right now. And it should've quit twenty years ago.

  3. I find that I'm growing fatigued with stories that go on endlessly. I prefer a tale with a beginning, a middle and an end.

  4. If something is making money, it's not going to end as long as the writers can make it good enough to keep fans happy. If a story is too big, perhaps split it into two novels, but never worry about brevity these days. More is always better.

  5. I don't know if it's "good" or "bad". I think it's more of finding something you love and not wanting to let it go. Comfort fiction.

  6. All good stories have an ending. Sure, when we find characters we love or who intrigue us we keep coming back for more, but as readers/viewers we can feel when it's time to say goodbye. I just said goodbye to Downton Abbey, and sure I'll miss it, but the writer cleverly gave us a happy ending for pretty much all the characters so that it was easy to let them go.

  7. I guess it's up to the writer, producers, creators and 'the powers that be' how long a show or book series goes on. I would like to see something I enjoy go on for a while but everything eventually outwears it's welcome. Sorry Supernatural.