Wednesday, May 12, 2010

OTP vs New Romance - What Do Writers Owe?

There's a storm brewing in my newest fandom, and it's fixing to be a doozy.

See, on As The World Turns, Luke has a new love interest, and it's sending some fans into a rage.

If you're not familiar with the background on Luke and ATWT, here it is in a nutshell. Three years or so ago, Luke fell for a supposedly straight co-worker, Noah. Turns out Noah was in the closet, and fell for Luke as well. They became the American soap opera world's first gay supercouple, spawning nicknames (Nuke), fan clubs, even fan events as far away as Europe. Even through the most ridiculous of storylines, fans stuck with them. They survived the Kissing Ban (the network refused to allow them to kiss onscreen for several months after their first two kisses, leading at least one website to put up a countdown clock), the green card marriage to an Iraqi woman, the homicidal father, the college prof who theoretically had a thing for Noah. (Here, again, the censors kept a tight rein on the storyline, causing it to be far more of a whimper than a bang.)

But Noah was blinded in a fireworks accident (and yes, I know how this sounds, as I type it. It *is* a soap, after all), and decided he needed a break from his relationship with Luke, to try to stand on his own two feet. They haven't been a couple for quite a while.

In the meantime, Luke has started falling for snarky, antisocial neurosurgeon Reid Oliver (I know! Give me a break. It's a soap!), and they've even shared a couple of kisses.

To the hardcore Nuke fans, this is a declaration of war.

Me? I'm not an early adopter by any means. I started watching this storyline just a month or so ago (catching up thanks to the magic of YouTube), and I'm a huge Reid fangirl. He's brusque, bordering on rude, and has a snappy comeback to almost any situation. He's also hiding a tender side that really humanizes him.

And the actor who plays him, Eric Sheffer Stevens, is fantastic.

I'm not the only one who's taken notice. The internet is buzzing with fanlove for Dr. Oliver, and the Luke/Reid pairing is gaining a lot of attention.

Me? I'm rooting for Luke to get together with Reid. He's refreshingly honest, he doesn't play games, and he makes Luke act like an adult.

To Nukies, though, that's sacrilege. Luke and Noah belong together because they're OTP (One True Pairing). One phrase I've seen more than once is that the writers owe it to them.

Part of the urgency and backlash, I think, is due to the fact that the show will be ending in September after 54 years on the air. (I said I wasn't an early adopter, didn't I?) Whatever decision the writers make now can't be taken back in the future. Whoever Luke ends up with - or if he ends up with nobody - will be the end of the road.

Maybe I'd have more invested in the Nuke pairing if I'd watched from the start of their storyline. Even then, though, I have to disagree with those who feel entitled to the ending they want, just because they've been fans for so long.

I don't think the writers owe anyone anything, other than a compelling storyline, well-written, with opportunities for all three actors to shine. At the end of the day, it's the writers' story to tell, and the actors' job to sell it.

So what do you think? Is there an obligation on the part of writers to fulfill fan expectations? What if the audience is divided? And what about in books? Do you feel disappointed if an author goes in a direction you hadn't expected or wanted?


Anonymous said...

I like it when writers surprise me. And I never understood the expectation that an author should tell the story a certain way. I guess because for me, stories tell themselves to me and not always the way I expect they'll turn out. The idea of rewriting the end to fit expectations feels wrong.

Meg Benjamin said...

I think it depends on how invested you become in the couple as a couple. I can think of some TV pairings that just didn't work, and you felt relieved when they finally moved on (Joey and Rachel on Friends). Conversely, there were other pairings that just seemed right and that you hoped would work out (Hodges and Angela on Bones). If you watched a couple come together and if their relationship seemed fated, then it can be depressing if the writers decide they don't want to go there after all!

PG Forte said...

One thing I've always said books have over TV series is that authors don't have to keep coming up with ridiculous plot twists and new love interests, etc, just to keep things interesting.

I certainly like to keep readers and fans happy, but I think for me, personally, my first obligation is to the story and to my characters--even when they don't seem to be feeling the same sort of obligation to me.

Honestly, fellas, where's the love?

Oh. Uh, sorry. Getting back to the subject at hand: As a reader, however, I will admit that if a series goes in a direction I don't like--killing off my favorite characters, breaking up a OTP, etc. I am likely to stop reading and I am even more likely to not go back and re-read the earlier books--even if they'd been among my all time favorites--because once a series has been ruined for me, it's over, IMO.

Which is why I decided NOT to kill off most of my characters in this series...which is probably why they're currently giving me such a hard time. Brats.

Maia Strong said...

I have to agree, as a reader/viewer and as a writer, that the writer owes nothing but the best story and characters they can create. Will I get pissed off if a book or show takes characters in a direction I disagree with? Sure. And I've been known to stop reading certain books when that's happened (Okay, it wasn't relationship related but still). That doesn't mean I've been betrayed by the writers of those books. Books and TV are products; we are consumers. We can choose to consume, or not. It's that simple. That idea of entitlement just hacks me off. Don't like it? Don't watch/read it. Hell, go write your own fanfiction if you're (and you know I'm using the generic "you" ;) ) that upset. And whatever you do, don't just sit there bitching about how unfair it is and how the writers owe you a certain pairing. They don't.

Debra St. John said...

That's a tricky question.

As a writer, I do like being able to write the book I want to write, regardless of what a reader wants it to be. However, from the business side of things, if I don't please my readers, they won't buy my books, and then where will I be?

As a reader, I do like some surprises, however, I do get disappointed sometimes when a story goes in a completely different way than I wanted it to work out.

Kate Davies said...

It is a tricky situation to be sure. I think writers do owe their readers/viewers some things: quality work, compelling stories, interesting characters. If you're writing in a genre, you owe your readers the benchmarks of that genre. A mystery novel that ends with the mystery unsolved, or a romance that kills off a main character, is no longer that genre and shouldn't pretend to be so.

It can be sticky to change direction, too. Some readers were furious with Suz Brockmann for not pairing two characters who had hinted at being a couple down the line. I completely understood why she went the direction she did, but for those who wanted the two together, it was seen as a betrayal.

My goal is always to meet (or exceed) my readers' expectations, without betraying my own storytelling muse. It's a tightrope, but a good one to be on!