So, like most others, my life has been taken over by Pokemon Go, an altered reality game where you catch cute as hell pokemon and run around like a crazy person. Altered Reality Games are defined as ” an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and uses transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players’ ideas or actions.” What this means is, it’s interactive and fully user-based. In this case, it involves walking and jogging around town to different landmarks, collecting items from those landmarks, and catching cute pokemon that spawn through out town.
Now, what does this have to do with Writing? Well, it explains a lot about fandom and how interacting with it works. We’ve seen a lot of examples of fandom interactions between those of us who create, and those who consume. Often times, those that interact with their fans generally make more sales, and also have more material with which to work. After all, what better engine of creation than several hundred rabid fans all coming up with theories like breathing?
In fact, some artists interact with their fandoms solely for this reason. Others, however, have fun with it, and generally just interact with their fans for entertainment. Then there are those who fuck it up royally while interacting, and somehow get accused of being predatory towards their fanbase (here’s looking at you, John Greene).
One of my favorite examples of an author who interacts with their fanbase is Andrew Hussie, creator of modern day Illiad Homestuck and Problem Sleuth. This is a man whose work has garnered him a fanbase capable of pulling together 1.2 million dollars in TWO. WEEKS. I saw the kickstarter (and donated to it myself) go from 0 dollars to $500,000 in 24 hours, all in anticipation of a videogame.
How did he do it? In-jokes. Good writing. MASSIVE character base. He opened his twitter and several other places for questions to his fanbase. He allowed them to interact with him, and they did. It was massive. In fact, there’s an entire in-joke within the fandom (Fat Vriska, for anyone who knows it) that was started when someone on Formspring asked him about the weight of one of his characters. Eventually, he was asked about Vriska. Which concluded in this glorious manner:
In one of the most glorious fuck-you’s I’ve ever seen, he declared this, and the fandom ran with it.
For more of these absolutely hilarious happenings, you can, of course go to Knowyourmeme.com, and read up on all of them. Or, you can attempt to track them all down. That could be a fun scavenger hunt!
Speaking of scavenger hunts, have you heard of CipherHunt? Well, the fandom of Gravity Falls has. You see, Gravity Falls is a disney show that made it’s fandom massive through the use of ciphers, mysteries and the sorts of things that make those particular fans go crazy. That is, an omniscient Dorito demon who makes bad deals. CipherHunt is creator Alex Hirsch‘s way of making his fans happy one last time. Even though the series has ended, he’s provided them a series of clues, and told them, go on, get hunting.
At the end of each clue is a souvenir/next clue. Now, this isn’t possible for ALL authors, obviously, especially if you don’t have DISNEY backing you. But the fact that he allows it, even though his series is over, shows you what kind of person ends up with a fandom that large. Playful people who love what they’re doing.
Rebecca Sugar, creator of Steven Universe, is another playful person who loves what she’s doing, and in so doing, interacts with her fandom. But she does it quite a bit less than the others on this list. Honestly, she just keeps an eye on what her fandom creates and says, and then sometimes makes nods to it in her show. This is the bare minimum, but because of the way her show works, it does wonders.
So, you might be asking, how can I become this sort of creator? What do I need to do to woo my fandom beast? Well, first of all, find the fans. If you have work out already, look at who bought it, and who likes it. Encourage these people to talk to you. Encourage them to create, whether fanfiction, fanart, or fanmusic. Encourage creation, and it’ll create itself around you.
Then, remember, no matter what you do, it’s not going to be perfect. Laugh about your mistakes with those who point them out. Or, like Hussie does, make them into injokes. Have a sense of humour, and openly enjoy the community growing around your works. Even if it’s only a few people.
And finally, be accessible. Don’t hide yourself away, because while that may work for people like Steven King, or George R.R. Martin, when you’re writing for the sort of demographic that likes Anime and Manga, you really can’t afford to.