Seeing the comments on chapter 14 paints a very grim reminder of what I’m trying to accomplish: I want to create a nuanced and personalized story to Quinn, and every decision I make in that story will alienate someone in the quest to make the story as personalized to him as possible. While I’m not against the concept of appealing to the broadest demographic, it’s not a particular goal of mine either, and I’d rather let my imagination tell me what goes on in his story. I’m not purposefully trying to go “Ha! This story contains a guy hesitantly slapping a girl, only the brave ones will keep reading!” It just felt like what Quinn does, and again, without the next chapter coming out at the same time, some people will sadly give up on this story and miss some context of why that moment was even there, narratively speaking.
Critics will rightfully see something wrong with that sentiment that I’m not trying to make the story too basic: I’m “throwing out” a nuanced relationship between Taylor and Quinn in favor of a more stereotypical love story between Morgan and Quinn. They’re right to point out that this is a safer route to take, and a bit of a dropped storyline on Taylor’s end. Weirdly, this is not too dissimilar to the plot of Being More Social, where the story first focused on May, and she effectively became a side character at best after a while. The two stories have a lot of differences, especially in how long the emphasis was on each character, but the themes are there.
The difficulty with Mutual Benefits at this point is that there isn’t a solution, not at this point. No matter what choices I make, I’ll end up disappointing a few of my readers. If Quinn and Taylor reconcile and end up doing more stuff together, that will disappoint people that wanted the ultimately healthier-to-be-with Morgan to take center stage. If Quinn and Morgan continue on their path, people that started reading and loving the story for Taylor will feel, on some level correctly, betrayed. If I make a few wild and left-field choices in the story (Me? Wild and left field? Never), both parties, to some extent, will be disappointed.
I’ve reached a very unfortunate point in the story where whenever I post a chapter, the feedback is divided between the positive and the… sad. Not critical, people aren’t saying “Hey Bash, the pacing was off in this chapter, maybe try showing more and telling less,” just lamenting. I see a lot of “Wait, are Quinn and Taylor over? Taylor was the reason I started writing! This story is being ruined!”
I don’t know why this emotionally affects me so. A more hardened writer might see this and go, “I’m writing this for me, sorry not sorry you don’t like my creative choices bro!” I’m softer than that. I look at these comments and feel like rubbing their back and apologizing. Again, it’s not criticism aimed towards me, not directly at least, but it’s no less valid. If you’re reading this and want Mutual Benefits to go in a particular direction, let me save you some time and say you will be disappointed.
This, quite frankly, is why I’m so terrified to start writing Consequences, the sequel to Being More Social. I know what’ll happen in the story, and I know why people want me to write it, and boy, are these two perspectives ever mismatched. If people are this divided and sad to see Mutual Benefits evolve… let me be frank, Consequences won’t stand a chance. I’ll upset a lot of people just by writing it.
I see part of this as a good thing. People are so passionate about my characters that they get sad to see their exclusion. That is, in a way, sweet. It’s also an indication that, for all my faults, at least my characterization work is okay. That’s good feedback going forward. I also do need to keep in mind that people declaring that the series was entirely ruined for them by me including slapping or diverting to another character meant they couldn’t have thought much of the story in the first place if one action or character was the one thing keeping them there.
As well, I need to keep in mind that without Morgan stealing the show, I doubt I would have done much more than 10 chapters. It just would have been chapters three through six over and over. It also doesn’t show much growth to have the plot be “popular girl gets flirty with awkward nerd, they bang, he maybe learns a bit about popular student life but does nothing with it.” I probably could have done more interesting plot stuff with only Taylor, but… who cares? I didn’t. Morgan is here. She has been for several months. That’s the story.
I want to say, “in the real world, people like Taylor do exist, but because of the complicated nature of their relationships, it’s only natural they only stay as a key part of your life for a little bit. It’s only natural someone like Morgan who actually cares more about Quinn would take over as the main character in his life. The fact Taylor was superseded by Morgan and it became a stereotypical love story is actually more realistic.” So I shall.
In the real world, people like Taylor do exist, but because of the complicated nature of their relationships, it’s only natural they only stay as a key part of your life for a little bit. It’s only natural someone like Morgan who actually cares more about Quinn would take over as the main character in his life. The fact Taylor was superseded by Morgan and it became a stereotypical love story is actually more realistic. I won’t say that Taylor is just going to fade away – of course she won’t – but I think the fact people wanted the initial situation of a risqué popular-girl-meets-nerdy-kid sexual tension story to always be the situation and wanted Taylor and Quinn to never grow, change, or drift apart, represents the whole point of why this story needed to be written.
Because here’s a truth I feel uncomfortable saying: I also wanted that. I wanted it to be simple. It felt weird to me even writing them growing, and I realized the mindset I was playing into. I think it’s healthier this way, because it’s healthier to know that people grow, change, and drift apart. True, fiction can sometimes be escapism from this fact, but at least this one time, it isn’t. I’ll talk to you all next week.