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The Same versus Different -- part one

Lately I’ve been noticing quite a few blog entries and message-board posts about what readers want – do they want something “different” or do the majority of them want a steady diet of the same old thing?

The ones who claim to want something “different” make the ones who want “the same” sound unimaginative and anti-different, when in truth, the people who want different are probably just saturated with what they used to like -–in other words, they loved something to death, burned out on it, and now want something different. They’re just in a different part of the I love this, give me more/I’m sick of this, give me different cycle than the others are.

Have I confused you yet? I’ve only been wrestling with this thought for a few minutes, so it’s not fully-formed. But I like it, so I’m going to persevere.

Here’s an example. I really like sit-coms. To a certain extent, I like the sameness of them, as long as they feature clever lines and talented performers. I get comfort from them. Yet there’s also a saturation point where I get bored, even when the actors are talented and the lines are pretty good.

I also like all things paranormal and/or sci-fi. I’d rather watch bad sci-fi/paranormal than none at all. I’ll complain, but I’ll keep watching the shows, just so I don’t lose the plot thread. I’m more underwhelmed these days than usual with the current selection, which tells me I’ve reached my saturation point there too.

So I’m on the lookout for something else – something different. A different sort of sitcom or “witch” show, or even better, a radically new form of show that knocks my socks off.

The trouble is, once you venture into “different” territory, there’s a much higher likelihood that you’ll despise what you find. Hate, hate, hate it! As much as I might crave something different, I’ll end up loathing at least 50% of it, and probably more.

Whereas, with “same,” I don’t really rise to the level of loathing. Bored, sure. A little annoyed, absolutely.

So when we talk about publishers being willing to take a chance on something “different” or when we accuse them of ignoring the brilliant minority of readers who crave something different, we need to recognize a key fact – not only are those different-seekers a minority, but even among them, only a micro-minority will like any particular “different” book. (If the publisher is lucky enough to find something different that ends up appealing to huge numbers of readers, that’s fabulous. And of course, within a year, that book will be a blueprint for a new type of book, which will eventually not be “different” anymore. But I digress…)

All people want “different” at some point in their lives, and to varying degrees. Some want “the same” most of the time, and just a little “different” occasionally. Some crave “different” more often, i.e. the novelty of their latest different wears off quickly and they want something different from that. But even for those in sync – those that want different at the very same time as one another – they want different “differents”. If they didn’t – if they all wanted the same “different” – then “different” would be “the same”!

I’m going to stop for now, even though I have more incoherent rambling written out, specifically, to relate all this to the demise of Bombshell. (Obsessed? Moi? Don’t be ridiculous!) But I want to think about it first to make sure I’m not going to tick anyone off with it before I post it.

BTYL, Kate

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