My first instinct, as an artist, was to absolutely defend Charlaine Harris’ right as an artist to write her story any way she saw fit. It’s still her right.
However, in light of Ms. Harris calling the people upset with the spoilers for her new book “Dead Ever After” “irrational” on her website, I had a rethink about it and I’m not so sure her indignant “right” is actually wise.
As an artist, I have a right to paint whatever subject moves me, in whatever style, using whatever colors I choose. If I have a show, people partake of my paintings without any monetary output. If my paintings aren’t their cup of tea, they walk away but if my paintings resonate, they buy them. If my work turns people off or repels them, I don’t make money and have an apartment full of paintings that only I enjoy. So, if I want to share my work, I need to make it accessible, even if it’s not totally my cup of tea.
If I want to do a painting for myself that’s fine, but I can’t expect people who have liked something I’ve done in the past to like this particular painting I’ve done solely as I pleased if it’s wildly different.
I have done paintings on commission. If, for example, I had three paintings of ballet dancers in pink and someone bought them and paid me to do a fourth for them to make it a series, and I decided I was tired of painting ballet dancers and painted a break dancer in blues and reds, I can’t be indignant because they were expecting the painting to go along with the three they already bought. I can’t be surprised that they are angry because they paid for something I didn’t deliver.
So, although I believe, yes, she has a right to write whatever she wants, since she’s writing a series that millions of people have read, if she wants people to partake of her art, she does have to take her audience into consideration. Consideration is the key word.
I believe a character poll was done of Harris’ fans and their favorite characters. I know she knew how popular certain characters were.
I also know Charlaine is not a stupid women. She had to know there would be great disappointment in what she wrote. But I don’t think she understands where the disappointment lies. She thinks people are being this vociferous because of the suitor Sookie ends up with. That’s not the case for the most part, though I can’t speak for everyone.
From what I’ve been reading, it’s not Sookie’s HEA people are furious about. They are angry because there was no build up to the eventual HEA. Yes, hints were dropped here and there throughout the books but there was no emotional build up for the readers, or the characters for that matter. After enjoying a series of books for 13 years, some readers feel betrayed by what they thought they were reading.
It’s also about the destruction or the closing off of a favorite character, one that Charlaine wrote appealingly, whether she was aware of it or not. I know she always expressed puzzlement for this character’s popularity but it has grown exponentially, so maybe Charlaine should have tried to understand this popularity instead of dismissing it as readers who just didn’t understand what she was writing.
It’s not a handful of readers who are fans of this character; it’s a large swath of readers, internationally as well, and who have nothing to do with one another. No one reader, or group of readers, was influencing all the others. This character is the most popular character on True Blood as well. No matter how hard other characters have been pushed in the series, THIS character remains the most popular. Must be something to that mustn’t there?
As an artist, Ms. Harris should have been flattered instead of vexed (she has expressed her vexation and the moderators on her website reflected this) and she should have tried to figure out why this character was so popular.
So back to does Charlain Harris have a right to wrap up her book the way she see’s fit.? Yes, she does. Giving Sookie the HEA she decided on in the second book is fine. BUT she should have had some consideration for the legions of fans who were invested in another character and placed that character in, if not a good place, a neutral place. After all, even though the books were about Sookie, there was one singular character that was featured more than most, that was more fleshed out than most, more fleshed out even than Sookie’s eventual HEA. By not taking all her fans into consideration, she is experiencing a backlash and I don’t think she should be surprised about that.
I will be back after Tuesday, when I will have read Dead Ever After, to give my thoughts about the book