Fandoms

| Monday, March 12, 2012
Today's Tune: Stay

Can we talk about fandoms? Fandoms are endlessly fascinating to me, and not only because I belong to several.

I think many writers harbor the secret hope that whatever they're creating will one day spawn the sort of rabid loyalty and passion that many before it have achieved. Also the chibi fan art. So much chibi fan art.

What is it that inspires the cult following of a book series or television show? Is there a formula that can be followed, or is it all up to random timing and chance? Does the moon  have to align a certain way? Is it the rarity of the storyline, the relatability of the characters, or the camaraderie of the fans?

I'm not sure. I don't think there's a particular code to crack, and I do think marketing and a bit of luck play a part in which creations spawn a massive following and which slip quietly into the ether. However, I think it's pretty rare for something genuinely awesome to fly completely under the radar. The fan base may start small, but it starts somewhere.

Most often, when browsing Tumblr or Twitter or any of the other eight billion social media and websites dedicated to various fandoms, the standout focus seems to be on the characters. So, that's somewhere to start. Fans develop a bond with a particular character, or the relationships between characters. It doesn't hurt for the plots to be well-written and the twists to be mind-blowing and the world to be achingly wonderful, but I think for a fandom to truly spawn, it comes back to character.

The love of characters can come in many forms. Sometimes it's a character that fills a wish or need in the fan's life -- wish-fulfillment, if you will. Sometimes it's someone they admire or aspire to be like. Sometimes the humor and chemistry between two characters inspires a fierce loyalty. Whatever the reason, it's clear that the audience needs to connect to somebody. When they form a bond to a character or characters, everything else seems to fall into place.

I don't know that there's a way for anyone to force this sort of bond. I think we can learn a lot from studying the material that has already created such loyal fandoms, but short of outright mimicry, I don't think we can recreate the phenomenon intentionally. The best we can hope for is writing a world readers want to get lost in and characters they can fall in love with. Characters that live and breathe and crawl into people's chests to live. Not literally.

What do you think about fandoms, readers? Do you belong to any? Which is your favorite, and why?



9 comments:

{ E.Maree } at: March 12, 2012 at 5:50 AM said...

Oh, I love Fandoms. Love, love, love them. They're wonderful and mad and so brilliant. I'm a loyal member of the BBC Sherlock, Doctor Who and My Chemical Romance fandom. Sherlock is my favourite right now, because of the quality of fanwork being created (like the r-brook.co.uk website and all the fanart), the fan theories, and the teasing back-and-forth between the fans and the writers.

Gathering a fandom seems to be a mix of creating skilled, professional work and interacting with the fanbase. Fandoms with a variety of available romantic pairings (especially 'slash' pairings) tend to rake in the fangirls as well.

I'd love for readers to feel that passionate abut my work and characters. Maybe some day. :)

{ Old Kitty } at: March 12, 2012 at 6:17 AM said...

I guess cos I follow Star Trek to death and dress up as Lt Uhura whenever I'm allowed to - then I'm part of the ST fandom! LOL!

ST - what's not to love!?!? :-)

Take care
x

{ Miss Cole } at: March 12, 2012 at 7:44 AM said...

Fandom is an amazing thing. I met my best friend over a decade ago through the Star Wars fandom.

The Star Trek fandom is great too :)

Sadly, there are scary sides to fandom (Supernatural fanatics, I'm looking at you!!!!), but it's not too hard to avoid the scariest sections.

I'd love to think I'd create a fandom, but like you say, it's part luck, part marketing. Only time will tell :)

{ Andrew Leon } at: March 12, 2012 at 11:05 AM said...

Neither Star Wars nor Harry Potter had any real amount of marketing when they started. No one expected either of those to be "big." Anyway, just saying that if something really is great that, yes, it will usually become known with or -without- the marketing.

{ Janna } at: March 12, 2012 at 1:51 PM said...

I definitely think it comes back to characters, and that a supernatural/sci-fi element doesn't hurt either. I don't know if this is because the fantasy element gets people's imaginations going, or because these genres tend to lend themselves to long series that give people more time to "know" and bond with the characters.

Nowadays if someone writes erotica featuring two of your male characters who are not dating in your work, you know you've made it. ;)

{ We Heart YA } at: March 12, 2012 at 4:56 PM said...

S&S are both big Sherlock and Doc Who fans. K was a big Trekkie in her day, as well as Sailor Moon and Fushigi Yuugi. And Ing, well, she doesn't get all fangirly, but it's probably good to have at least one level-headed person in the group. ;)

Like you, we don't think fandoms are something you can purposefully create. You just have to do your best, and then hope the readers get it and love it.

{ Emy Shin } at: March 12, 2012 at 7:49 PM said...

Fandoms! Some of the best writing I've ever read come from fanfics, really. They're my guilty pleasures.

I've always wondered the magical factors that spawn fandoms. I mean, look at Harry Potter! That's the fandom to end all fandoms. From my experience, to have a thriving fandom, you need at least 2 characters with enough chemistry to function as the OTP that carries the fandom on its back. However, the potential needs to exist. That is, those 2 characters can't already be in a relationship, because many of the fics in fandom are about how they get together, not how they stay together.

(Haha, can you tell I think about this way too much?)

BBC Sherlock, Star Trek, and Harry Potter are all pretty awesome fandoms with intelligent fans fangirling over brilliant characters.

Ursula at: March 13, 2012 at 12:59 PM said...

Actually, regarding Star Wars, George Lucas knew exactly how to gain that following. He played on the nostalgia of the older generation and the infaillable boy's adventure format for the younger gen. Can anyone tell I paid attention in film class? ;)

My own favorite fandoms include Sherlock (of any kind - I'm a proud Holmesian!), and the A:TLA crowd.

{ E.Maree } at: March 15, 2012 at 3:53 AM said...

I want to be friends with everyone who's mentioned 'Sherlock' so far, haha. :D

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