You know, I’m not sure if our weekly schedule has been harder or easier of late on those of you who are truly caught up in the throes of “What happens next?” Is it good to have a week to relax the tension while you go about your other business, or is it torturous? I hope it’s more towards the former, seeing as the schedule isn’t going to get faster anytime soon. My intent is not to torment, honest.
But yeah, regardless of intent I sure feel like I’ve hit the readership with a lot of cliff hangers lately, particularly compared to the early episodes. Not every page has ended with someone figuratively dangling by their fingernails, so I dare to dream that I’m not running fans to emotional exhaustion… but these last few weeks have been pretty intense.
In my defense, we’ve come to the climactic moments of this whole first story arc, so dangit, it’s high time for some focused intensity. Also in my defense, most of the readership likely isn’t nearly as invested as the vocal (and much appreciated!) few that are piping up every week to urge Suzie onwards and shake their fists in Muriel’s direction. I know at least one person who’s commented that they can’t ever really get concerned about a main protagonist because of the phenomenon of “plot armor” (mind you, if they ever read any of the books Game of Thrones is based on they’re in for a shock or ten). Others are reading over a dozen webcomics and taking classes/working jobs and just mosey by every month or so to see if “whats-her-name” finally got the drop on “whos-her-face”.
I don’t honestly know how many fans we’ve corralled that could be termed “hardcore”, in that they really (cliff) hang on our every update. I would be hesitant to declare that even one such exists, except just a few days ago Dawn got a comment on her DeviantArt page from a reader who claimed “yours is the only webcomic I follow religiously and bother to learn the posting schedule of. It has a lot of my favorite things.”
Just knowing even one such is out there is a heady feeling. Successfully getting people embroiled in your story and characters, especially to that level? Hell yeah. And yet ironically, those people are the most likely to suffer at those points of your story where you put your characters in harm’s way. I think most dramatic fiction gets its hooks in us regardless of people being aware of the plot armor phenomenon… the James Bond 007 movies are continuing proof of that. And Doctor Who has that whole bit where even if he dies he’ll come back, but that doesn’t stop people from being on the edge of their seats in regards to his adventures.
Mind you if a story was dependent on nothing more than cliff hangers I would probably find it boring rather quickly, which is why it’s important that people are interested in what James Bond is up to even when he’s not chained into the latest death trap. And then when he’s in the death trap, you desperately want him to get out of it so he can continue doing all those other cool things, and also kick the butt of that smug villain who put him there.
So, at least in some of your cases I think I’ve gotten to that point with Suzie, and because of that I do apologize for any emotional trauma all these recent cliff hangers may be provoking. Just remember, if and when she does make it through, you’ll also be the ones most primed to stand up and cheer.