Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past couple of months no doubt you are aware of the phenomenon that is sweeping the nation called Pokémon Go™. Whether you play it or know of friends and family who are involved this is what is considered the newest form of social media. But my article this week is not about the game (the pros or cons) nor is it about its place in the world of socializing. My question to you is this: Do you play the game because you’re a fan of Pokémon or is because everyone else is playing it?
The Herd Mentality
I was never a fan of the show, Pokémon but I have seen enough episodes to understand the basic concept. One of my two daughters watched it faithfully and is one of the thousands that participate in this “Go” game. I immediately chose not to because I did not want to run with the crowd; that and the fact I’ve heard enough horror stories of people being robbed and/or shot to not want to consider my life forfeit for a game. And, just for the record people, it is JUST A GAME.
There are a lot of memes out there on social media that are both for and against people who play the game. People seem to get easily offended by the negative memes and feel that families will split over it. As it stated in the last paragraph, IT’S JUST A GAME! If you can’t take a little criticism or a little ribbing then clearly you are taking the game way too seriously.
I avoid the game because I don’t want to become part of the Herd Mentality; play it because everyone is playing it. One of things my mother used to say to me as I kid when I wanted to do something because the other did it was: “If you’re friends jump off of a bridge, would you?” Of course I would reply, “No.” Naturally they wouldn’t jump off a bridge but my mother’s point is just because they are doing it doesn’t mean you have to do it. And, more often than not, she was right.
You look at any herd of cows in the field; the only reason they are there is because some opened the gate and let them out to graze. They will stay out there until they are corralled back into the enclosure they came from. This is a daily routine and they rarely stray from it. Occasionally you have a rogue cow go wandering from the herd and ends up paying dearly for it; either by injury, theft, or death.
The Herd Mentality in Writing
This concept follows over into the world of fiction. When Anne Rice put out Interview with the Vampire, suddenly vampires were cool and every writer wanted to jump on board and write their own story. When J.K. Rowling released, book 1 of the Harry Potter series, then writers wanted to write about children with wizard abilities or witchcraft. The examples continue with Sexy, brooding teen vampires to the zombie apocalypse. When a new idea comes out everyone want to emulate and put in their 2¢ into the mix. This then is the herd mentality of the writing world. Be like everyone else because that’s what’s hot!
A major drawback on this concept is that by the time you complete your vampire novel and publish it, vampires may not be the hot topic and instead it’s serial killers with an ice cream fetish. (*Note to self: create serial killer with an ice cream fetish) But you get my drift. The other problem is by the time your story comes out, the market will be so saturated with books of the subject that yours will be simply seen as, “Just another vampire book.” Even if you think your book is different from the rest it will just be lumped together with the rest of the herd.
But vampire stories won’t be popular forever and neither will stories about the zombie apocalypse. That’s why you need to avoid the herd mentality and break from the pack. Write about something that no one else has considered and put your book out front of the pack rather than follow the herd. Create something that will cause others to say, “Now why didn’t I think of that, I’ll write one too!”
Be a salmon and swim upstream, go against the grain of the wood, and any other lame cliché saying you can think of. In others words, stand out and away from the herd by writing a story about someone or something that no one else has thought of. Or take a really old idea and put a completely new spin on it; not just to breathe new life into it but to make it your own. Avoid the herd mentality in your writing!
What problems have arisen in your writing that could be considered “herd mentality”? Share with us your problems and your solutions. I’d love to hear from you.