Back in 2014, I went to a meet and greet event, held by one of the most prominent book publishers at the time. There are 3 novelists on stage, best known as the most prolific writers in the world of Indonesian pop literature–able to produce up to 3 books per year, supported by a strong fan base, their works are rather mainstream but fit into the most of book publisher’s target market. So, in short, they are the book publishers’ darlings.
None of the writers are my favorite.
But that’s the time when I was hungry for anything related to fiction writing. I went to every book signing events, writing workshops, fan meetings, book swaps, in a hope to be inspired. So, even though those writers upstage are not my muse, I am ready to learn their tips and tricks in becoming prolific, or at least, to finally finish writing a book (I am in a writer’s block, I’m working on 3 book drafts at that time and I couldn’t finish any of it). That, and I did bear one big question in mind regarding the writers’ work:
Considering that you are all created many books with the same theme and a quite similar plot over and over again, don’t you feel afraid that your readers might be bored with your works?
I did realize that my question might come off as a bit rude and probably a taboo thing to ask a prolific mainstream book writer, but my curiosity won at the time. So I raised my hand at the start of a QA session and shot my inquiry.
Two of the writers looked puzzled, but one of the writers (the one which specialized in adult-themed romance, think erotica in a workplace, there you go) reached for a microphone and gave me his answer.
He said that he is widely aware he’s been producing a rather similar plot over the years, but it is not something he did without thinking. He deliberately specializes himself in a theme that is still considered rare in Indonesian literature to gain more readers and more fame to his name. He considered his current works as no different with instant noodle or popular supermarket snacks drown in artificial taste enhancer. Some might think it’s unhealthy, it’s cheap, you can find it everywhere, but almost everyone loves it, almost everyone’s willing to eat it again and again even though they know how it tastes. It’s a snack they wanted in the midst of a busy day, it’s something they craved when they’re having a bad mood, it requires no hard-thinking, it specifically targets and satisfies readers’ fantasies. The theme and the predictable plot structure promise everlasting fan base, and that’s why he’s been doing it for years. He knew that there will be some of his readers who will grow bored of his works, who will choose for a more sophisticated plot, probably different genre, but that’s just mean the readers outgrew the theme. Other new readers will come to fill the empty spot, and for a writer that writes with a purpose of getting read, that’s fine by him.
As an aspiring novelist, I do understand the yearning, the wish for getting your book to be read by someone (if you understand Bahasa, you can find some of my fiction writings here). Even writing a book with a recurring plot structure requires tremendous energy and thinking process, so I have no negative judgment on that. It’s understandable. I personally still in the process of finding my genre, but I might concentrate on one theme and one plot structure too, one day. Who knows?
In fact, I am more awed by his honest approach. His answer is defined, clearly something that came out of a long consideration, and I applaud him for that.
Since then, I’ll think of the adult-themed writer whenever I saw a mainstream book corner in a bookstore, or whenever I thought about the word ‘outgrow’. Like right now, when I’m having my ‘outgrow’ moment: I lost interest in some of my hobbies that I have been doing for almost a decade, and I can’t help but to think about that meet and greet event when a mainstream writer struck me with his answer.
Still not a fan of his writings, but officially a fan of his bravery and wisdom.
*featured image is a courtesy of Pixabay