Really, that title should be a warning because you never want to manipulate your readers, unless you have a very awesome outcome planned along the way. Manipulating your audience is kind of mean, and today we’re going to talk about how a wonderful TV show, Castle, went downhill, manipulated its viewers, and met a dismal end, so that way you can learn how to manipulate your readers (not).
First, some background on Castle (aka, my favorite show….ever – it pains me to write this post, but it needs to be done). Castle was a show on ABC for eight seasons, and it was about a writer who solved murder cases with a cop. The first episode featured a copycat killer, ripping murderers out of Castle’s books. Eight seasons later, Castle, the writer, and Beckett, the cop, are married.
Andrew Marlowe, the original showrunner and creator, stepped down at the end of season six as showrunner. That’s when things went down hill with a lame ending to the season. The next two seasons? Even worse. The main actors, Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, had contracts that went to the end of season seven, so this time last year, everyone was wondering if a season eight would even happen. It did, and a new set of showrunners came in to tell the story.
(I know this is a lot of background information, but it’s all important!)
The main “mystery” throughout the series was the murder of Beckett’s mother (which happened way before the show started). By season six, the case was deemed solved, with the man who orchestrated the whole ordeal in jail, and Beckett got to see justice for her mother.How to Manipulate Your Readers (+ what you can learn from a TV show) Click To Tweet
So problem number one with manipulating the audience? The new showrunners for season eight insisted on re-opening the case of Beckett’s mother’s murder. A story thread that had been closed and over with for a year. Now, we all of the sudden have this mysterious man looming in the dark? More powerful than a senator? Yeah, okay, if you say so.
Problem number two with manipulating their audience: the new showrunners “split” up Castle and Beckett. The whole show was about the relationship between Castle and Beckett, set to the backdrop of solving murders. Season eight was the lowest season in terms of ratings in Castle history.
Things were already looking bad, then about a month ago, news broke that Stana Katic, the actress who plays Beckett, would not be returning for the ninth season.
Cue internet freakout. Seriously, people were calling ABC out for blatant sexism (Katic and one female co-star – who played her best friend – were the only two who would not be coming back).
Then Nathan Fillion and a string of male co-stars (along with a few renewed their female co-stars, like Molly Quinn), renewed their contracts, and everything was pointing to a season nine.
Until last week when Castle got the ax. Four days before the season finale, it became the series finale. I won’t get into how much the finale was a rip-off because this post would never ever end, but let’s just say, it sucked. The happy ending that they got? It was tacked on at the last minute, and it lasted less than a minute on the screen. The happy ending (which should have been a big deal since Castle is a writer!) felt like an afterthought.
So, to recap, here are a few ways to manipulate your readers, thanks to Castle.
-Re-open plot lines that have been completely resolved
-Ditch popular characters
-Give your audience a half-assed ending.
Why do I keep referring to it as manipulating your readers? Because sometimes it’s easier to show how to do something so you know to avoid it instead of simply saying “don’t do this!”
While I’m sure this list could go on and on, these are the three biggest ones from Castle. While the early years were lots of fun, by season eight it was obvious that the show was headed toward something horrible and awful.
When it comes to publishing your books, you don’t want to manipulate your audience the way the ABC executives did with Castle. If you manipulate your audience, they’ll stop buying your books. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself, but if you’ve ticked me off enough as a reader that I stop reading, it’s pretty bad.
Readers are so crucial to an author, it almost feels silly writing this post, but I think it’s important that you see what manipulating an audience (your readers) can do. When it came time for the internet freakout (see above), people spent a month begging ABC to go ahead and cancel Castle on social media. You know you’ve lost it when your audience is begging you to stop the story because it’s become so bad. While I doubt most authors will see a response of that proportion, you’ll know when you’ve manipulated your readers to the point of no return.
So I hope you never ask yourself how to manipulate your readers in such an egregious way, but if you want to, here you go.