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Rod Serling discusses “Writing to Please an Audience”

July 13, 2009

“Isn’t there a risk you run if you pre-occupy yourself with audience reaction?”

In this, the second part of Rod Serling’s Writing for Television, the conversation goes toward writing to please an audience.  What happens when we write at a certain level and with a certain expectation?

I think the question is most definitely a valid one, but I might further the question by wondering out loud, does the answer vary across artistic mediums? Is it different for a screenwriter than it is for a novelist?  A songwriter?

I think the difference between writing toward an audience today, versus Serling’s era, is the way marketing has become not only a significant aspect of how a story might be told, but whether your story is told at all.  This isn’t to say that in television and cinema in particular, there haven’t always been craftspersons who have created works with the ultimate goal of profiting from them, but now in our modern era, it has become more and more the case that “story is product”.  If story starts out as “product”, does it not by nature become derivative as stories are created for the sole purpose of creating the by-products of merchandising, sequels and other modes of commerce?

Does it not degrade the craft and art in storytelling to create a story out of a marketing concept, rather than actually figuring out ways to market great stories?

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