An Idea is Only as Good as Its Audience

Honesty time: There are things that I have written that I think are interesting, worthwhile, or at least present a new take on an old concept. I’m not saying that it’s brilliant, revolutionary, or groundbreaking, but it’s the work I’m most proud of. It’s also usually what sells the fewest number of copies and gets the least love. An idea is only as good as its audience, insofar as you have to give people what they want.

Frustratingly, I have also written things that I am not happy with. It’s derivative, not particularly creative, and borders on pandering. That’s the stuff that tends to sell the best. It hurts my soul. While I am a self-professed hack out of economic necessity, cranking out things quickly and with Roger Corman-like efficiency so that I can pay the bills, that doesn’t mean I don’t have aspirations. I want my work to be good, and original, and to push the envelope in new and interesting directions. That’s not the stuff that’s going to cover my rent.

An Idea is Only as Good as Its Audience

This isn’t meant to throw shade at people who don’t share my tastes. I know that my sensibilities, grounded more in indie film and literary fiction than fantasy, scifi, horror, and superheroes, don’t reflect the roleplaying zeitgeist. There’s a Corman analogy in that, too. While he was banging out profitable low-budget movies, he was also acting as the US distributor of highly regarded foreign films. Corman brought the works of Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, François Truffaut, and Peter Weir to American audiences. In a ten-year period his company, New World Pictures, won more Oscars for Best Foreign Film than all other studios combined.

Like Corman, then, I’m working with two separate audiences. I’ve found the first, and I know how to work with them. I’m still seeking the second, which extends not only to finding them but sorting out how and what to create for them. I still want to do the aspirational stuff. It’s a matter of finding the balance that will make it possible.

About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press publishes story games that embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation. Our print books are affordable, at $10 or less. The 6×9 digest format makes them convenient to carry around. The spotlight belongs on the creativity of the players as they converse and collaborate on plot, worldbuilding, and character development. Roleplaying is an activity, not a book. Our titles are merely part of the delivery system.

You can buy Dancing Light Press products at DriveThruRPG

1 comment / Add your comment below

  1. I understand, and can empathise.
    I’ve thought of doing a folk horror setting for Mythras, but they’re already going down that road with an M R James setting, rather than looking for an original one. Likewise, they’re going to create a pastiche of a superheroes setting – and I’ve no idea how they’re going to play that out, whether the characters are doing all their heroing in Rio, Moscow and London, or in “Brazil City,” “Commie City” or “Englandtown,” or whatever fake copies of New York, Washington, or Seattle that they could come up with – “Gotham City,” “Metropolis,” “Central City,” “Star City?”
    There are so many ideas for settings in my mind, original settings – but I have to work on other people’s settings, if I’m to make any money from writing.

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