Thursday, October 26, 2017

Does Fan Service Destroy an Artwork?

There are different kinds of fan service, from using elements you think your fans will love to allowing your audience to participate in the art creation process. But doesn't fan service destroy an artwork?

Sometimes artists turn into magic fairies and fulfill their audience's wishes.

If you want your art to be seen by a large audience, you need marketing. Marketing means understanding and acting according to your audience's desires. And one very special form of marketing is fan service ...

Many artists do it, be it in the form of couples popular among the fans of a story getting together or just certain characters being pretty or wearing revealing clothes for no reason. And there are also whole genres that are centered around fan service: For example, stories which are written about characters submitted by the readers or stories where the readers vote over how the story is going to be continued.

What Does the Audience Really Want?

Interestingly enough, much fan service seems to be based on clichés rather than on facts. As I wrote in another article, there is a difference between what draws attention and what the audience actually enjoys: When it comes to violence, for example, people are more likely to choose violent versions of television shows over non-violent versions (of the exact same shows) when reading the descriptions. Yet when it comes to actually enjoying a show, the non-violent versions tend to get better scores than the violent ones.

So what is better then? More violent action or more human emotions and relationships? It seems, many people don't know what they really want. Many creators seem to think they do their fans a favour by including spectacular violence, and many fans believe this as well. Whereas in fact ... Probably only researchers know for sure what people really want.

Fulfilling the Audience's Wishes

Sometimes, however, fans have a very precise idea of what they want, and they let the creator know in their feedback. This is, for some reason, especially the case with shipping: No matter what kind of story you tell and which medium you choose, sooner or later some people from your audience, mostly women, will want two or more characters from that story to become a couple.

Well, if you did plan for a love relationship between those characters, then congratulations! You and your audience are on the same vibe! If your audience, however, wants something different than what you've planned ...

I've never been in such a situation, because I usually finish my stories before publishing them, and then I don't change the plot anymore, no matter what. But I've seen other creators react very differently to the audience's shipping:
  • Some creators, just like me, ignore it and continue their story as planned. Sometimes it works well and sometimes the audience is disappointed, depending on the creator's storytelling skill.
  • Other creators choose to make their audience's wishes come true and it works well with the rest of the story, so everyone's happy.
  • Finally, another group of creators fulfills the audience's wishes as well, but it doesn't work well with the rest. Or rather: The creator fails at making it work with the rest. Two characters become a couple without a love story. Just out of nowhere. It feels like an important part of the story is missing.

So the moral of the story is: If you choose to fulfill your audience's wishes, then make it fit in with the rest of the artwork. If you can't do that, then don't do it at all. Don't ruin your masterpiece.

Cooperating with the Audience

But what if you choose to create your whole artwork around your audience's wishes? Like writing a story about the characters your audience has created? Or drawing a picture based on random keywords your fans came up with? I'm sure there's a possibility for every art genre to interact and cooperate with the audience.

This interactive kind of art creation is very different from completely original art, but since I define art as any kind of creative production or service, pieces created with help from the audience can be counted as art as well. In fact, I even believe that creating art around something that comes from the outside is a very special kind of challenge compared to relying solely on one's own imagination.

I don't have personal experience with interactive art creation, but the most striking aspect about it seems to be that not everything is under your control and you have to make it work nonetheless. I don't think it's easy. On, a German community for fan fiction and original stories, I've stumbled over quite a few pieces written in such a way and personally I don't consider most of them good. On the other hand, Jazza, one of my favourite youtubers, often uses his fans' ideas for his character designs, and I find the results just amazing.

So the moral here is: Cooperating with the audience can be great if you're really good at it.


So is it bad to obey the wishes of your fans when creating art? Of course not. The result can be great. But you should be aware that sometimes your fans don't really know what they want. You also shouldn't forget what you want (it's your work, after all), and if you choose to fulfill your audience's wishes, it should work with the rest of the piece. And if you decide to base your whole artwork on your audience's requests, know that it's a hard challenge, so do it well.

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