I’ve mentioned in several posts that I’m interested in the idea of character blogs. It’s also clear from the fossil record that character blogs have been investigated by a number of writers and marketing departments over the past five or six years, yet there are no consensus successes to point to despite the effort and hype.
The attempts (so far) seem to fall into several categories.
There are character blogs used for marketing purposes, including the marketing of TV characters and shows. Incredibly (to me) there were even some people who equated character blogs with corporate marketing and branding initiatives, as if character blogs could not be fiction for fiction’s sake. There were also a number of people strongly opposed to such marketing ploys, and for the most part I agree with them.
There are character blogs as humor, satire and spoof, of which perhaps the most well-known was Newsgroper, which appears to have fallen silent. One of the more popular spoof blogs is The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, which is still publishing as of this date.
Character blogs have also been used by individual writers to draw attention to their work, but often as a means of generating marketing interest as opposed to narrative interest. For example:
So I’m OK with character blogs – even those that don’t make their fictional basis known up front. As a matter of fact, I think growing a character blog really relies on it not being exposed as such too quickly.
As a marketing tool, deception and secrecy can be quite effective, if only because there never seems to be a shortage of people who can be hooked in the mouth with headlines or stories that promise or tease revelations about possible deception. In fact, it’s Marketing 101 these days to put the word ‘secret’ in every headline, even if there’s no secret.
But generating curiosity or interest by withholding information can only succeed for so long, and only at the expense of any genuine emotional interest in a blogged character. If a reader reads along only to find out if a character is real or not, there are only two possible outcomes once the answer is known, and neither one is good. Either the reader feels duped for having believed in a fictional character, or the reader is sated by knowledge of who the character really is. In both cases, the character itself is revealed to be not fiction, but fraud.
Note also that many of the links above date to a period of interest between 2005 and 2007. As DustinM at Blogfiction.org notes:
It seems like interest in Blog Fiction peaked back in 2005. Considering that they only started in 2003 that’s pretty quick. I know things go fast on the internet, but this is ridiculous.
So blog fiction (including character fiction) had an experimental run from 2003 to 2005. This grassroots movement kicked off campaigns in corporate marketing departments from 2005 to 2007, which tried to figure out how to exploit the nascent medium (and blogging hype in general) for advertising and branding purposes. And then: nothing.
What’s missing in all this? To my mind, it’s the idea of a character blog as character blog. Not as a tease or a marketing tool but as an artistic expression of a fictional character.
Despite the fact that the fossil record doesn’t seem to betray their traces, I do know that many people tried this. But I don’t think they tried it the right way. Or maybe those who did it the right way were overwhelmed by forces that simply don’t exist today. In any case, blogs are no longer new and mysteries about whether a given blog is fictional or not have been sequestered apart from the validity of blogs themselves. The medium has survived, and still exists, and any medium that meets that test is invariably turned to storytelling.
How to begin?
Tell the truth about your fiction. Always. If you don’t respect storytelling as a manifestation of art, craft and voice, nobody else will either.
— Mark Barrett
It’s the integrity, stupid. It matters, and I appreciate you taking the time to encourage us to think about these things. Knowing a book is fiction before I start reading it does not hinder my ability to enjoy, in fact it only helps me to relax into the experience. And not feel like I got duped when I’m done.