The fact is that, often, the things which make us really geek out about stories, movies, games, comics etc… aren’t the big things. They’re the small things that we can carry over from our favourite fictional worlds into real life.
They’re the small things that make our daily lives just a little bit more amusing, cool, interesting, imaginative or just downright fun.
There are probably too many of these things to list, but I thought that I’d look at three of them today in case they can help you to cultivate a fandom of your own. So, let’s begin.
1) Catchphrases: I’m going to start by listing a few catchphrases from various things, see how many of them you recognise: “I’ll be back”, “Valar morghulis”, “Live long and prosper”, “Filthy assistants”, “The truth is out there”, “Use the force”, “The cake is a lie”, “No power in the ‘verse can stop me”, ” One does not simply walk into…” etc…..
How many did you get? One? Five? Ten? Chances are, if you’re at least vaguely interested in science fiction or fantasy, then you’ll have probably smiled to yourself when you saw at least one of these catchphrases. In fact, you may well have used one or two of these catchphrases in real life at some point or another.
Catchphrases are one of those few small things that you can take away from a great story and use in real life. As such, they give a story some “added value”. So, if you can find a way to add a memorable phrase or line to your story that can be used by geeky fans in real life, then they will probably thank you for it.
Yes, coming up with a good catchphrase can be difficult, but this can sometimes happen completely unintentionally (and it probably will if you’re good at writing dialogue). So, it’s usually a good idea to err on the side of caution and include several memorable and easily-quotable lines so that there’s a good chance that at least one of them will end up being picked up and used by your readers.
The best example I can think of at the moment is probably in “The Terminator”. I can’t remember where I heard this, but the one line that the people who made this film initially intended to be a catchphrase (Arnold’s brilliantly deadpan “F**k you, asshole” line) unfortunately didn’t become a catchphrase for obvious reasons.
However, since the film contains so many other great lines (“Come with me if you want to live”, “I’ll be back” etc…) it has still lived on in popular memory through some of these lines. So, it’s best to err on the side of caution and include several cool catchphrases in your story or comic.
2) In-universe jokes: Sometimes the thing that can really make fans of a show, comic or a novel squeal with nerdy joy is when their favourite story doesn’t take itself entirely seriously for a moment.
I’m talking about when there’s a brief moment of self-referential humour which takes place entirely within the context of the story and feels like it could have genuinely happened in that particular fictional world.
For “Star Trek” fans, a good example of this would probably be the “come to Quark’s, Quark’s is fun” adverts which Quark illicitly posts around the station in an episode from season four (?) of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. Not only is this scene hilariously funny for fans of the show, it actually seems like something that Quark would genuinely do too.
Not only do these small jokes live on in the imaginations of your fans, they also reward your fans for getting to know the characters and the fictional universe of your story too.
I mean, if you’ve never watched “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” before, then the Youtube clip that I linked to earlier probably won’t be quite as funny as it would be if you were a fan of the show.
3) Designs: Sometimes the small thing which can really make your fans geek out about a story can be the logos, symbols and designs in it (eg: like the distinctive badges in “Star Trek”, the ‘I want to believe’ poster from “The X-Files”, Spider Jerusalem’s distinctive glasses from Warren Ellis’ “Transmetropolitan” comics etc….).
Not only do these things give geeky fans something to “latch onto” and use as a symbol of their fandom, you can use these designs to create merchandise that you can sell (eg: T-shirts) and/or you can allow your fans to create their own non-commercial stuff (eg: T-shirts, models, jewellery etc…) that uses them.
Whilst the latter might seem counter-productive from a business standpoint, allowing your fans to use these symbols freely not only increases their loyalty to your story but it also reminds them that you are a fan yourself (rather than a mercenary copyright-obsessed corporate businessperson who doens’t care about your own story, other than how much money it can make for you). Plus, it saves you actually having to make the merchandise yourself too.
Plus, although this technique obviously works best in visual-based storytelling mediums like comics, movies, TV shows and computer games, it can also work in prose fiction too.
For example, George R. R. Martin’s excellent “A Song Of Ice And Fire” novels chronicle the many wars and machinations between various noble houses in a medieval-style world. Each house has it’s own distinctive symbol (eg: House Lannister’s symbol is a lion, House Greyjoy’s is a giant squid etc…) and, although there are small pictures of each symbol in the appendix at the end of each novel, they are described so well that you can easily picture them even if you’ve never read the appendix at the end of the book.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂