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Veronica Mars, Writers & The Fourth Wall

With 28 days of fundraising left on Kickstarter, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas raised more than $3.3 million, getting financial support from fans to create a movie version of the cult television show.

The Daily Dot described this shift in fan and creator power dynamics in an article about the crumbling of the “fourth wall.”

The line that separates fans from the creators of their stories is growing ever more thin; historically, fans have called it the “fourth wall,” a firm line that must not be crossed because interactions across it make everyone uncomfortable. But as the Internet increasingly brings everyone together, as fans grow up to be creators and creators openly embrace their own status as fans, it’s harder to see boundaries between the two groups—much less to tell at what point a story stops “belonging” to the creators and starts “belonging” to fans.

deviantART explored some of these ideas in a SxSW panel called “Creator vs. Audience: Next Chapter in Storytelling.” In a Morning Media Menu interview last year, we spoke with Ron Martino, the producer and director deviantART Network. Martino explained how writers have found audiences and book deals from the site, showing how the walls between creators and fans crumble in the community.

Martino also outlined the community’s Oddyssey II project, a collaborative writing project guided by novelist Clive Barker–all writers can enter this massive effort to crowdsource a new novel from within the  deviantART community.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview: “The literature community is vast. There are novelists, graphic novelists, comic book artists and writers. Artists and creators come to deviantART in many different ways.  We have writers that come on and they find the artists that they would like to work with to create a comic book or graphic novel. We have artists that come on and hook up with writers, colorists or line artists. They start to build out a story together. We have people that can do both on the site. They are artists and storytellers, so they release chapters of a book every week or every month and that’s how they build an audience and tell stories.”

Martino explained how the site has fostered the growth of “full spectrum narrative,” a different kind of storytelling: “When I got to deviantART, I realized something incredible was happening. When an author would build a world before they wrote a book, they would have a glossary of weapons, a geography map of their world and build all these extra components before they started to write the book. ”

He continued: “Ten years ago, there was nowhere for those elements to go. The book would be published and no one would see all that work. But now, [on deviantART] all that work is the engine to build an audience before you even release the first chapter. People release character sketches, story elements, artwork, all of it leading up to the publishing of the book. Which is incredible, because you’re getting feedback, you’re seeing what works and you’re able to make subtle adjustments.”

Press play to listen. We’ve included more excerpts from the interview below, along with links to some of the most successful work on deviantART.

Martino pointed out how illustrator Sam Garton landed a book deal through his deviantART work.

He also showed how the creator of Last Man Standing used the site to build an audience and strike a book deal with Heavy Metal: “I think having an audience before moving into any iteration of a story is now unbelievably important in the business of selling books … They built an audience and used it to pre-sell their entire print run before they even go to press … And then Paramount came in and optioned the film and TV sub-rights. So it’s happening in multiple directions.

He also showed how a Flash comic book creator named Yuumei found thousands of readers on the site for her Knite series.  He explained: “you can go to her gallery and you can look at each one of those chapters for her Knite comic book. The people reading her book, it’s in the hundreds of thousands. Not for the book as a whole, but for each and every chapter. That’s powerful.

Martino concluded: “People are able to interact with the work of their favorite creator, whether it’s Sam or Yuumei, by creating fan art or fan fiction. It’s a different level of connection and access that I don’t think authors have been able to have up until now. She has a new book she’s working on called fisheye placebo, and she’s been releasing sketches, characters and artwork. The last piece of artwork that she uploaded had a 100,000 views in a few weeks–just for the character that the story will be based on. So that’s a whole new way that you’re building audience before you release a book.”

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