Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Selling Fun


“Never forget, we sell fun.”

That quote comes from a character in Joyland, Stephen King’s most recent book. Released earlier this month, the book is notable in part because King has decided not to release it as in print only, at least for now. That decision is actually the subject for another post, another day. No promises, though.
AT any rate, in an interview for Parade magazine, King had this to say: “The major job is still to entertain people. Joylandreally took off for me when the old guy who owns the place says, ‘Never forget, we sell fun.’ That’s what we’re supposed to do—writers, filmmakers, all of us. That’s why they let us stay in the playground.”
‘Fun’ is such a strange word. The implication of ‘fun’ is…well, fun. Laughing. Smiling. Happy sounds and warm feelings. Tigger is fun. Clueless Pooh (or accidental genius Pooh) is fun. Fun can even be a book that is somewhat unpleasant but has that “Holy crap, I never saw that coming!” moment. Think Gone Girl (or most anything  by Gillian Flynn, come to think of it). As long as the twist doesn’t feel like a cheat, it’s usually pretty damn fun. But if there’s no twist? If you’re dealing with straight up tension? Is that fun?
Thinking of movies for a moment, I can’t say that The Exorcist was ‘fun.’ I was about 7 or 8 when that movie came out; just seeing the commercials on TV scared me, and Tubular Bells still gives me the shivers. When I finally saw the film, it scared the hell out of me, and though I was past the age for movie-induced nightmares, I still got ’em. Fun? Maybe, maybe not, but it was one hell of a good movie.
Fun or fright? Kind of hard to tell

And that’s the odd thing about it, isn’t it? ‘Fun’ is different for everybody. Some love roller coasters, some don’t. Some find fun in collecting stamps, some in skydiving. There’s no real right or wrong to it, it’s just the way we are. I don’t know that I’d say what I’ve written so far is ‘fun.’ Some of my short pieces, yes, but the novels, not so much. In fact, if you read one of my novels and said to me, “Hey, thanks, that was a lot of fun,” I’d probably wonder where I went wrong (or what was wrong with you, hah hah). I think that there’s fun in them, amusing lines, segments that make you chuckle, but not necessarily fun. I don’t feel like the sort of person who rights ‘good time stories.’ Though I don’t think I write ultra dark and depressing stuff, either.

The good thing is, there’s room for all of it.

 Have a great weekend, all.

Photo from Fellowship of the Rich.

9 Responses

  1. That's probably the number one thought I try to keep in my head as I write: This is for entertainment. Since I'm not writing slice of life stuff but adventure, I make sure lots of crazy happens to my character. I like seeing characters get out of tricky situations. It's what entertains me when I read, so that's what I try to write.

  2. I guess what we really sell is 'entertainment.' Sometimes that's fun, and sometimes (in the case of scary or sad books) it's not, but people still enjoy the read.

    Great post!

  3. I love/hate that writing and all forms of art are like that; everyone's got a different take on how certain things will make them feel, especially what is 'fun'. I don't like rollercoasters, but I know people who do. I think reading in and of itself can be fun, if the book is good and the reader is willing to let it be so. Likewise, I think writing is fun, even if what I write is not. I agree with Melissa's comment above; that what we really sell is 'entertainment'. Thanks for sharing, Jeff 🙂

  4. I love that there is space for everyone and all kinds of styles! I like have different books available for the different moods when I read. The older I get the more I veer away from dark and gory and towards light & those HEAs 🙂

  5. I am quite glad we're not all entertained by the same thing. It would be quite dull, wouldn't it? Or maybe we just wouldn't notice. And thanks for stopping/commenting, Bonnee.

  6. This was a great post. I never thought about fun being such an ambiguous word before, but it certainly is.

    Have a FUN weekend doing whatever floats your fun boat 🙂

  7. Well I think there's a difference between a "fun" reading experience and an engaging, enthralling experience. For me crime thrillers (good ones, anyway) are engaging and enthralling. Because of the subject matter, I wouldn't call them "fun" but I thoroughly enjoy a good one.

    And so wait–Stephen King released an ebook only?

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