Many writers harbor that dream of creating the work everyone loves. Many writers also have the dream of creating a work that connects intimately with others. Finally, most writers find that reconciling these – let’s call them Broad Appeal and Personal Appeal – is a nightmare in practice.
Yet some works manage to have both Broad and Personal Appeal – let us call it Universal Appeal. Those rare movies and books are things we all treasure, for we can enjoy them by ourselves and share them with others. Some creators break through the barrier, and we wonder why (we’re not jealous, right?).
This issue has been going around in my head for a while. My tastes for media have evolved lately, and I’m trying to understand them. This Broad, Personal, and Universal appeal are whirling about in my mind, so join me in an attempt to understand my thoughts.
Thoughts On Broad Appeal
Media with Broad Appeal are those works that interest many people but may not be particularly intimate. They’re enjoyable or insightful, but most of the audience doesn’t experience that connection that drives people to obsess over or plumb a work. We’ve all had that movie or show where your reaction is, “yeah it’s good, nice to share that with others.”
Broad Appeal is not bad. I would argue the near-endless Marvel Films tend towards the Broad Appeal category, but most are good to extremely well-crafted. There is a place for Broad Appeal because it lets you share the experience.
I can understand why some people focus on writing things with Broad Appeal. It makes money and you get lots of people who like it – and both are great! However, it seems to take effort to reach that level of Broad Appeal, or one may crave the intimacy of Personal Appeal.
Thoughts On Personal Appeal
Media with the Personal Appeal are works that connect deeply with a set of people but aren’t “for everyone.” The right audience has a deep experience because they truly “get it.” I’m sure you’ve had that book or comic or show where you loved it but found it impossible to share.
Personal Appeal is not exclusionary. It’s just that you have to be the kind of person who it’s made for, who connects with it. Some stuff just isn’t for you – something I get to with my large library of philosophy, little of which I can safely say “yeah you’ll dig THIS translation . . .”
Personal Appeal seems to be easy for some people to write – create what you like or focus on a domain of specific knowledge. Writing things with Personal Appeal also has an intimacy that is quite enjoyable, which I can say from personal experience. Still, an author may want to have their work have a broader audience than they have . . .
Thoughts On Universal Appeal
Universal Appeal is that rare work that appeals to a wide audience and reaches people’s depths. Everyone (or at least a lot of people) can enjoy it and feel a deep, inspiring, life-altering connection. It’s the work everyone talks about and will be considered classic decades or centuries down the road. For many authors, it’s the hope – getting paid and reaching people.
There are a few works I’d put in this area. Historically, one example is the Tao Te Ching, the “life-changing evening read” which has reached people for aeons. More recently, Lord of the Rings fits this category – I’ve been through multiple revivals in my own lifetime. I’m sure you have others.
Universal Appeal is a challenge. I don’t think it can be calculated or planned. It may be something that just happens, and creators may just have to live with that.
I find I rather like this taxonomy. It’d doubtlessly oversimplified, but it gives me ways to think about works for the future.
I hope this gives you things to consider – which means I hope it has Broad Appeal . . .