In these days of Internet, where everything can become social if you want it to be, I've been enjoying a relatively new dimension of media fan experience: reactions.
Not only can we see how a piece of media affects other fans of the media, but we can see the creators of that media responding to reactions and having their own reactions.
This is really, really interesting to me as a creator.
Every week I post my update on what's been going on in my world, and one of the sections I always highlight is if anyone's featuring my work or talking about me (that I know of). Most of the time I don't interact with the people sharing their thoughts on my work, but sometimes--because I have the tools to do so--I respond to their questions or reassure them or comment on what they have to say. I generally stay away from commenting on reviews or negative descriptions of my book, because that's just generally bad manners and is frowned upon since it makes people feel like you're watching and policing criticism of your work, but I don't see the harm in engaging with people in my community in general. I don't believe that becoming a creator means I have to uproot myself from my community and become some cloud-sitting non-person.
Sometimes they seem surprised. Usually they seem pleasantly so.
We still put the creators of our media in this "other" box, as if it didn't come out of a person or as if the person it came out of is not a "regular" person. And we're still getting used to the idea that if the people who make our stuff are on social media, we can see what they think as people and we can sometimes interact with them. (I've seen people who abuse this, too, but most of the time it's just a neat thing we can do now if the creators give us opportunities to do so.)
Recently, as many of you who read this blog or know me in real life know, I've been watching a bunch of cartoons. The writers of the show I'm watching are, in some cases, pretty accessible and active on social media. They generally seem to appreciate that their show has generated mega-fans and so much enthusiasm, but here's a really interesting aspect of it: some fans like to tweet at the creators and (I guess jokingly) scream at them about how they're trying to kill us with the heavy emotions exploding in the storyline recently or that they bathe in our tears and feast on our sadness. One of the people on the team stated that he found this baffling and kind of sad. The idea that creators LIKE causing their fans pain is very weird, I agree.
That said, we do like to move people. We DO like it if you cry--not because we like making you sad, but because it means you cared. You got invested. You thought our fictional people and their situations mattered, and it was real enough to you that you had an emotional connection.
I've been watching reaction videos of cartoons on YouTube. If you don't know what that is, it's basically people watching something for the first time and recording their reaction, usually with the media they're reacting to displayed in another window for us to see too. Yes, it's as odd as it sounds; we're essentially watching people watch TV. But I've been enjoying watching them--not just because it's an excuse to watch the toons again, but because it sort of makes you feel like you're watching it with a friend (as silly as that sounds), and it also lets you see that other people are having the same reactions you might have. (Or sometimes very different ones!) If you have a favorite movie and you love showing it to other people and you're just waiting for their reactions to certain parts, you know what I'm talking about. In any case, it's really fun watching people laugh and get surprised and even cry over this stuff.
And as an aside, I've seen a surprising number of grown men crying while watching these reactions. Like a really really surprising number.
Now that creators can read blog entries and see reaction videos of their audience having emotional reactions to their work, not only can they experience that reward in a way that didn't used to exist, but they can learn what's working. Now that I can see what parts of my book people are quoting on Tumblr and see occasional videos mentioning my work as something that improved their lives, I know both which bits are really doing the job and how important it is to keep doing it.
Given that very little of my fiction is published (and it's all short stories and webcomics), I've had limited experience with people reacting that way to my fiction writing, though it has happened with my beta readers and in the comments of my comics. But I know, both from watching the way other people react and from being a fan myself, that well-written fiction leads to real emotional investment that enriches people's lives, and I hope that very soon I have a chance to do that for my readers on a large scale.
Maybe I will.
And if I'm given that opportunity, I promise I will deliver.