I saw an interview on YouTube with Charlize Theron, who was press junketing (yep, went ahead and made that a verb) for “Snow White and the Huntsman.” It’s a long video. Charlize’s interview starts just before the 10 min. mark.
The interviewer, Jake Hamilton, asks her what an actor has to bring to a movie that they didn’t 15-20 years ago, because nowadays it takes more than just an actor’s name to sell a movie. (Remember the days when Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts could make a crappy movie, but it would still be a big hit simply because they were in it? It doesn’t work that way so much anymore.)
Charlize’s answer, in summary, is that actors need to “bring their A game.” That’s true. I think my longer version of that answer applies to readers as much as movie watchers: Intelligence and respect.
Audiences are a smart bunch and they know when they’re being served a platter of poppycock. If a writer (or actor, artist, musician, you name it) isn’t 100% invested in what they’re creating, it is completely evident. That means intelligent decisions and no cutting corners.
This leads to the second answer – respect. The success of a thing does not necessarily equal that thing’s quality. Having access to so much information has made audiences more sophisticated than ever before. So, if a visual effect or actor’s performance falls flat, or if a book is entertaining but poorly written, people don’t just let it slide anymore. And now everyone can get online and tell the world if they think something stinks.
While I was writing “There With You,” I tried to make sure that I sounded confident in my story. I also went through a few times (and will go through a few more) to make sure my grammar was correct. And when I asked Dianna to look over my first draft, one of the specific things I wanted her to do was let me know if any part sounded cheesy or ridiculous. Even if I loved it, I needed to make sure an audience wouldn’t think, “Well, I was with her until this part and now I’m annoyed.”
I have to make sure I give it 100% on my end, and that includes taking the audience into consideration. So far that’s only 3 people, but, if I’ve done my job, hopefully one day soon it will be many more.