SB Message Board

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
It’s been brought to my attention that Suzanne Brockmann has shut down her online message board. From her farewell note, she seemed to be overwhelmed by an influx of visitors and couldn’t handle the enormous weight of responses—the nasty responses in particular.

My first reaction to this news has to be utter awe. Here we have one, single writer. She created a whole new world in her Troubleshooters series, putting such believable characters in that world millions of readers delved into the lives of these fictional people. They delved so deep and became so emotionally attached some of them actually became enraged to the point they turned a personal attack on the author herself. Amazing. Now, that’s talent right there. No mere mediocre writer would ever be able to stir up such an uproar.

After my initial moment of awed envy, however, I feel a fissure of horror. But, holy guacamole! Do fans actually become so extreme they harass an author enough to make her shut down her message board? Scary. It makes me think of all those Hollywood stars that flip out and shave off all their hair when their fame grows too big. They’re built up so high by so many adoring admirers, there‘s nowhere to go but down, and down tumbles a really, really long way. Makes me think maybe I don’t want to be as great a writer as Suzanne Brockmann. Mediocrity doesn’t look so bad after all. It appears a lot less painful anyway.

From that point of view, I really can’t blame her at all for closing her doors. I probably would too if I was attacked so viciously for something a couple of characters in my book did. Then again, it doesn’t take much to hurt my feelings, so… yeah, I’d bail. Plus, there’s plenty of other online discussion groups readers can visit where they can chat about her books. No, you won’t get her personal comments like you occasionally did on her message board, but there’s still gobs of other places to network.

On the other hand, as a Decker/Sophia supporter, I gotta feel just a little smug deep down inside. There’s this tiny taunting voice in me saying, “Now see. If you’d only given Sophia and Decker a happily ever after in Dark of Night, you wouldn’t have created such an uproar, causing so many fans to revolt and making you shut down an entire operation. Ha, ha.” Then again, who’s to say all the Sophia/Dave fans wouldn’t have created an even bigger stink if they hadn’t gotten their way.

But honestly, Brockmann had to have known she’d tick off at least SOME of her readers. She set up two men for one woman. And you can’t argue she didn’t do that either because there’re too many arguments saying she did. Besides, it would’ve been obvious from the get-go on all the back cover blurbs who would end up with who if she’d wanted us to know that answer before reading the book. She intentionally built the mystery and anticipation, which she did admirably, by creating a competition between Decker and Dave for Sophia’s love.

But the thing with competitions is the people watching them—that would be us readers in this situation—tend to take sides. If you go to a ball game, one side of the stands will cheer for one team and the other side cheers for the other team. At the end of the game, an entire half of the stadium is going to be disappointed. It feels very strange to me that Brockmann was surprised to learn she had disappointed readers after Dark of Night when she’s the one that forced us to take sides by creating a competition.

Of course, disappointment is no reason to be nasty. Despite how true-to-life it might’ve felt or how intensely our emotions were sucked into the series, Dark of Night is—after all—just a book. Its outcome gave no one any reason to attack anyone else. Brockmann is the author of said book, and she’s totally within her right to deal with her characters how she wants… even if so many people disagreed with her.

Now, with that said, I think the most valuable lesson learned here is to be very careful when creating two perfectly acceptable heroes of seemingly equal status and then setting them BOTH up for one heroine. There is only one constant formula in a romance novel. ONE. And that’s: Two people + Their story = One happily ever after. Add a third person or take out the happily ever after and it’s technically not a romance any longer. If you take the romance out of what’s supposed to be a romance novel, avid romance readers will uprise, giving you a war on your hands. And when that happens, it ain’t pretty.

So, that’s my opinion—er, rather—my many, varied opinions on the topic. What does everyone else think about the end of the message board? Yay, nay, or don’t give a flip? Personally, I’ve already moved on to the dark, paranormal Dark-Hunters, created by Sherrilyn Kenyon, and am currently being sucked into their world. Acheron, here I come!

1 comment:

  1. Good blog, Linda,

    Couple of things here- as writers we have to distance ourselves from fans (short for fanatics). Even newby writers can be stalked and harrassed. So some boundaries must be set no matter what marketing gurus tell you.

    And you are right about romance readers and authors-I sat in a critique meeting last night and am always amazed at how passionate people can get over characters that are not theirs. :)