Saturday, October 1, 2011

Opinions Needed on Nancy Drew Relaunch

The original Nancy Drew series ended with #175 in 2003 and was replaced by the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series. The Girl Detective series had mixed reviews and was not well-received by many fans. That series will soon be ending and will be replaced by the Nancy Drew Diaries. Jennifer Fisher has done a write-up in her blog and wants fans to state their opinions on how Simon and Schuster should approach the new series. We want Nancy Drew to remain viable. Please go to Jennifer Fisher's blog and give your opinion.

I decided to give my opinion both here and in Jenn's blog. My opinion is as follows.

I have long considered Her Interactive to be the strongest licensee for Nancy Drew. The Nancy Drew games capture the essence of Nancy Drew and have a strong following. I believe that Nancy Drew remains viable mainly due to the efforts of Her Interactive. The games have flourished while the books have floundered. Exactly why is that?

Nancy Drew has been successful for more than 80 years because she is resourceful, clever, and levelheaded. Furthermore, Nancy has never had a well-defined personality, which enables readers to assume the role of Nancy Drew as they read the books. For several generations, girls have experienced Nancy Drew's adventures along with her and as her. By keeping Nancy as a blank slate and by making her clever and resourceful, girls could have fantastic adventures through her and have experiences that they would never have in their own lives.

In the Nancy Drew games, the game player literally plays as Nancy Drew and experiences Nancy's adventures just like the readers of the books always have. While the player, as Nancy, makes a few mistakes during game play, the player, and therefore Nancy, maintains her dignity. The games have humor, which is important, but the humor involves funny events along with the antics of the other characters, most particularly Joe Hardy who is always up to something. Nancy Drew is never made to look bad.

This is where the Nancy Drew Girl Detective books fail. The main objective of the books seems to have been to make Nancy Drew look as clumsy and inept as possible, and at the same time, make Nancy's friends appear to be more capable than her. Who wants to read a book about a girl who seems to be developing early-onset dementia since she can never remember to fill up her car with gas? Who wants to read a book about a girl whose friends are all more capable than she is? That concept is rather depressing to me. I want to be the capable sleuth.

Additionally, the books need to have better cover art. While a reader should not judge a book by its cover, the truth is that most all readers do. The covers attempt to make Nancy Drew look trendy, and perhaps they do, but to me, she looks like an airhead with a bit of an attitude. I hardly want to collect the books, which is why I stopped buying them new at around volume 10. I am slowly collecting the set secondhand at reduced prices.

The cover art also suffers from a lazy design department which seems uninterested in trying to make the covers look different from each other. Take the following four books, for instance.





Nancy looks to be wearing exactly the same outfit on all four books. Need I say more?

Simon and Schuster should take a look at what Her Interactive has done with the Nancy Drew games. The games feature a smart, inquisitive detective who makes just minor mistakes. The games tell interesting stories, and the dialogue between the different characters is engaging. I greatly anticipate the release of each new Nancy Drew game, while I no longer care about the new books at all.

Take a look at the design for the newest Nancy Drew game.


When I view the artwork, I anticipate how great the game will be and think of the fun I will have playing it. Isn't that how I should feel when I see the cover of a new Nancy Drew book?

4 comments:

Kelly Robinson said...

I don't mind these covers. Nancy has always looked fashionable and current for her time, without being over the top. This looks like a typical girl to me. The same-outfit thing isn't unusual for a series, though a bit of variation would be nice. I do think it helps "brand" the character. If you see this girl anywhere, you'll know by her outfit that it's Nancy Drew --maybe that's what they're thinking?

stratomiker said...

It's nice to know that the games are good and exciting, but many people don't like computer games, like me, so we need GOOD books. The problem with the newer books is that they just aren't good. They are dull, badly written, have uninteresting characters, and on and on. Take for example the Stephanie Plum books. They are a blast. You drool waiting for the next one. They go right up all the lists to #1 because fans can't wait to get their hands on them. Nancy Drew books should be just as exciting and lusted after.

There is no excuse for bad writing other than the editors are not looking for better. They are probably content to slump around the office relying on the tried-and-true name of Nancy Drew to bring in the numbers. Which isn't happening. They need to get some good writers who know how to write adventure and mystery, and for today's young reader, a little teasing romance.

I think what happened early on with Nancy Drew is that the Stratemeyer Syndicate really got lucky getting Mildred Wirt to write the Drews. I think she made those books the success they were. Even Walter Karig, who took her place for Twisted Candles, Mysterious Letter, and Larkspur Lane, was terrific. But when they lost those two writers the books began to get BORING and the downslide began.

But that's a publisher's job, to get good writers, and the owners of Nancy Drew just have not been doing a good job. They will go on to try all kinds of silly ideas for 'the proper series for today', but what they really need is a handful of really good writers who understand who and what Nancy Drew is and what the fans want from her.

Mike

Jennifer said...

It's nice to know that the games are good and exciting, but many people don't like computer games, like me, so we need GOOD books.

I agree. I am not into computer games at all, so that tells you something. The games are the only good new Nancy Drew product coming out, so I have to wait for my twice-a-year Nancy Drew fix from the games. I'm not going to get it anywhere else.

I have my Nancy Drew game pre-ordered, and the pre-orders ship on Monday. Happy times! I like the games for the story, and I use spoilers to get past the annoying tasks.

Her Interactive also did a great job with the mobile game Shadow Ranch. I'm not sure that they will do another one of those, since the game enthusiasts did not like it very much. They didn't like it because it was more like a book, which is exactly why I loved it! Please, please do another one, Her Interactive! It is like a second revised text Shadow Ranch, because the story was rewritten and changed up yet again. It is good!

There is no excuse for bad writing other than the editors are not looking for better. They are probably content to slump around the office relying on the tried-and-true name of Nancy Drew to bring in the numbers.

I also agree on this. In fact, Simon and Schuster is making the same mistake as Grosset and Dunlap. G&D made very little effort to advertise its books, and that is why the Stratemeyer Syndicate chose to go with Simon and Schuster in the late 1970s.

Now Simon and Schuster is riding on the name of the series and making no extra effort. This is why four covers feature Nancy Drew wearing the same outfit. The staff is putting forth a minimal amount of effort, and it shows. Nancy Drew deserves better.

Lauren said...

I'm not reading the newest versions of ND and I don't play computer games so I can't comment on those, but this:

I think what happened early on with Nancy Drew is that the Stratemeyer Syndicate really got lucky getting Mildred Wirt to write the Drews. I think she made those books the success they were. Even Walter Karig, who took her place for Twisted Candles, Mysterious Letter, and Larkspur Lane, was terrific. But when they lost those two writers the books began to get BORING and the downslide began.

I totally agree with. I rarely reread the back half of the original series because they became so generic and overly concerned with shoehorning in facts and trivia. I think I read somewhere that this was an attempt to make the books more popular with teachers/librarians and make them more "educational" but it's done in such a clunky, pedantic way that it's a chore to read.

And the writing definitely went downhill. In fact, I did reread a few chapters of a later one recently (Whistling Bagpipes, or maybe Pine Hill, I can't remember) and at one point, they discover that someone has been rustling sheep. Nancy's response is "Ooh, that's bad." HUH? Such a small thing, but it bugged me enormously because it doesn't fit the voice of the character at all and it makes her sound like a slightly dim 12-year-old.

Nancy has always looked fashionable and current for her time, without being over the top. This looks like a typical girl to me. The same-outfit thing isn't unusual for a series, though a bit of variation would be nice. I do think it helps "brand" the character. If you see this girl anywhere, you'll know by her outfit that it's Nancy Drew --maybe that's what they're thinking?


I can see what you're saying, but my problem with them choosing that as a "signature" outfit is that it's hardly memorable. It certainly does look like any kid you'd see at the mall, but that's not what you want if you want to trademark somebody by their outfit. They could have had a "current" outfit that stood out.