Just this morning I was reading a post on a message board forum. Somebody was wondering aloud – (can you do that on a message board forum?) – just what was the secret behind the HUGE success of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.
So I threw in my two bits – which started my mind to thinking and elaborating further.
I didn’t even have to move my lips while I was doing that – although I am mumbling now as I type this into my blog.
Here’s my two bits.
I have been feeding the birds outside of my house for many years. I have a system. I put a few peanuts out on the sill of my dining room window. The blue jays come there. The crows – who also like the peanuts – are too big for the window sill – so this way the jays get to eat in peace.
(why is this dude talking about birds?)
Then, I put peanuts on the railing of the deck. That’s where the crows come to eat. I’ve always liked feeding crows. I consider them a kind of personal good luck totem. Their existence speaks to me of a wily kind of hanging-on existence – a worthwhile quality for an indie writer.
(Okay, so why is he talking about crows? Is this some kind of a flash-mob thing?)
Then I feed the smaller birds – the starlings and the grackles. I always save the heels and the last few slices of bread in a loaf for these birds – as well as the last few crackers and cookies that go stale at the bottom of every cookie and cracker box in the known universe.
(Okay, so now he’s back to talking about birds again. Has he gone crackers? Should someone call security?)
There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs at this point in time. While I am scattering the pieces of bread the birds all line up on the wires that run above our house. They sit and they tweet and they twitter and more birds come to sit upon the wire. That’s the time that I like best – because each bird sits and sings in it’s own way. It is like God never taught the starlings any one particular song – so they just make it up as they go. I sometimes like to sing back to them – just humming to myself. It is my own kind of personal meditation and I probably ought to feel embarrassed about it – but every man is entitled to his own particular dam-fool practice.
(All right, that does it, you make a noise to distract this guy and I’m running for the door)
About two-thirds of the way through the scattering of the bread one bird works up the nerve to light down at my feet and grab him some bread crumbs. The other birds see that bird lighting and grabbing and they begin to land and do their own lighting and grabbing of the bread crumbs at my feet.
More birds come.
By the time I go back to my deck chair and sip my coffee the entire front lawn is awash with feathered twittering.
That’s what is happening with such fad books as FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. One bird sitting and twittering draws another and another and before you know the whole damn lawn is filled with FIFTY SHADES OF GREY fans.
These people aren’t necessarily buying a book. They are buying acceptance. They are buying comfort. They are buying a whole herd of like-minded companionship. They are buying a conversation-starter. They are buying a piece of the status quo.
You give a listen to the next person you hear talking about FIFTY SHADES…
Odds are, they won’t talk about plot or character or story structure.
Odds are they will say something along the lines of “Everybody is reading this. EVERYBODY!”
We are all herd animals at the deep-down root of things. And we all are susceptible – to one degree or another – to this phenomenon.
Don’t believe me?
Just think back to your childhood when your Mom or Dad would see you picking up a cigarette or some-such bad habit and then you’d say something like – “But everybody is doing it. EVERYBODY!”
And then they’d say something like – “If everybody was jumping off a bridge would you do it too?”
And then you’d say “YEAH!”
Or if you didn’t say it, you’d most likely think it.
So, am I saying that the popularity of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is a bad thing?
Am I even remotely looking down my nose at FIFTY SHADES OF GREY?
I am saying that the popularity can sometimes be a by-product of communal hype.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is a “bad” book.
It’s got a cover and it’s got words and most of those words even make a sentence.
I have read the first chapter and it did not make me want to grab it and read it. I didn’t read TWILIGHT and I didn’t read THE DAVINCI CODE either.
I did read THE HUNGER GAMES and enjoyed it. Even watched the movie, just last week – and that’ll be a blog for the near future. So I’m not saying that the hype-machine that is in motion around such phenomenon-releases are necessarily a sign of a poorly written story.
However, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY was not a story to my liking. Doesn’t make it a bad book. Just one I don’t care to read.
I would however love to figure out how to generate that kind of book-buying hype that FIFTY SHADES OF GREY has demonstrated for something of my own – say like maybe SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME?
Let’s get those birds twittering about that!
yours in storytelling,