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I Wanna be Popular too: A Series

Or 7 Steps to Engaging the Audience…

As a writer I’ve always desired to understand why a particular work is popular. If you ask a cross-section of your friends, you can gather a list of appealing elements they all agree they related to. When you delve into why those engaged their affections their reasons can vary widely. In the end, I concluded it becomes the audience’s relationship to the work that makes it resonate in their hearts and become popular.

The Shawshank Redemption - PosterTwo imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

The Shawshank Redemption doesn’t come up when I think of my favorite movie. So it’s always inexplicable to me whenever I read a list of favorite movies “of all time” and it’s at the top of the list, if not #1. To decipher this popularity puzzle I’ve tried to watch this movie numerous times, once even making it past the midway point. My desire to forge through a prison story always faltered before either man-made their mark. Well, I’ve finally done it and finished an entire run through!

The Twilight Saga - HeaderThe Twilight Saga follows an unlikely couple: Bella, a teenager, and her boyfriend Edward, a vampire that has sworn off human blood. But their love is ill-fated–being a vampire, Edward must keep his passion in check, lest he is driven to suck Bella’s blood.

The Twilight Saga phenomena shocked me. I remember flipping through a copy when Twilight first came out. I read the sparkly scene and thought only for girls. Then when Bella first met the Cullens, I rolled my eyes at the over dramatized angst. It all seemed a sorry excuse to romanticize vampires even further. Seven years later and I finally bite the jugular and slogged through all 498 pages of Twilight!

Mad Men - PreHeaderA drama about one of New York’s most prestigious ad agencies at the beginning of the 1960s, focusing on one of the firm’s most mysterious but extremely talented ad executives, Donald Draper.

Mad Men - HeaderAMC is one of my favorite channels nowadays but I didn’t really find it until about 2008. So when they advertised the second season of Mad Men I decided to try it. The show had much critical success and was spoken about highly. The first episode was so bizarre and depressing that it left me reeling… Then Betty propositioned a random stranger helping with her car. I lost it, vowing never to watch the show again. I feared that by subjecting my brain to such trash I’d be forced to put myself out of my misery. Here comes a much heralded season 5. There had to be a reason everyone worked so hard for it’s return…so I gave it a second chance. I even made it to the end of the season without bodily harm!

I’ve piqued your interest, right?

You’re probably one of these works #1 fan boy or girl or know someone who is. To be honest, I’m not one to jump on a bandwagon just because it’s popular, as you can see. Having my own mind and not allowing my judgment to sway with the masses is important to me. This idea though, that it’s how a work made the audience feel that makes a work popular, intrigued me. So much so I wanted to delve into this popular movie, book series and television show to see if my theory on popularity held up with their harshest critic…me. With the right attitude, I found they shared specific qualities that engender the masses to choose these works to love. As one post would be too long to explore each of these qualities I broke them up into their own posts. A series, if you will, on how to be popular too.

#1 Commit them in the setup.

#2 Use point of view to seduce them.

#3 Touch them using theme.

#4 Show them a unique protagonist.

#5 Invest them in the world.

#6 Brutalize them during the plot.

#7 In the end, climax with them.

Audience banner

A writer can use these 7 steps to engaging the audience to become popular too. It might seem like a relatively logical list to make but these steps are a road map, not a destination. The secret is in how the writer of each work personalized these qualities in their stories to specific characters, times and places. In fact, the connection made between a work and them (the audience) is so powerful it can overcome many negativitys that would otherwise doom a work. For example, the Twilight Saga is not, nor will ever be, the most well written of series. This can be overlooked due to her adherence knowingly or unknowingly to this list of 7 steps to engaging the audience. Evaluating each of these works, while they might never be my most favorite movie, books, or television show, I can now appreciate and apply to my own work their magical ability to draw in so many fans.

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