Writing for a Specific Audience (Day 21)

I find it so much easier to work on my romance novel when I can actually picture my audience. When I say “audience”, I do not mean some abstract mass of people hunched over my story, nor do I mean a demographic type like “middle-aged women” or “male young adults.” What I mean is that I picture actual people—people I know—reading my work as I am writing it.

There are some people—wet blankets, I believe they are still called—who can dampen your spirits on even your best day. These are not the people I conjure in my head as I type away. In fact, I keep them as far away as possible as I am writing, because a single thought about their comments and I know that my writing will be ruined for the day.

Rather, we all know a person (and hopefully more than one) who is a great source of encouragement in our lives. This type of person always has a way of boosting our morale and helping us see the forest when we become too fixated on the trees. People such as these have a sixth sense: they give us a call right as we are on the verge of collapse; they compliment our work even if we feel we are not deserving of it; and they always have the right words for us, as if they know what is going on in our hearts at the precise moment. These are the people I keep close to my heart as I write, for these are the types of people for whom I want to write, as if in gratitude for their support and interest in our work.

Depending on what I am writing, I create for myself a mental list of such people. They are not necessarily people with whom I speak on a regular basis; in fact, some I have not seen in months. I picture them reading my work and telling me in their own voices, “I like it”—even when I think the whole story is garbage. It keeps me going; it becomes a source of motivation for me because I know that even though I never understood why, these people always managed to somehow genuinely enjoy what I did or wrote or said.

Who do YOU picture reading your work?

Who do YOU picture reading your work?

The very things that I do—the slight lilt in my voice, the way I tell a story— that seem so absolutely banal to me delight these particular people, and so they remind me that one person’s normal can be another’s extraordinary. To drive the point home: just the other day my husband asked me how it was that I always laugh at his jokes. I told him that he was hilarious. “I am not even a funny guy,” he replied; “I am so serious.” And yet, I disagree. I find him ever so charming and clever; and although he cannot see it himself, he now takes me at my word and warily assumes that he too is somehow funny (or at least to one person in this big world).

Even on the days when I do not feel like writing, I know that I must, because “they”, this select assortment of cheerleaders that I have created for myself, are waiting and are eager to read more.

Since the people in my “audience” are also representative (either in age, style, or ethos) to the actual, larger audience to whom the work is directed, it gives me a clue as to how I should be crafting my story, including the tone, style, and level of formality. I must add that it is precisely from this group that I gather my first set of beta-readers, those readers who will read my work, provide their comments, and therefore guide me in my subsequent revisions.

Because most artists view their art as a mother does her baby, I seriously believe that developing artists (i.e. worried and self-conscious artists) need to think twice about the people to whom they will show their art at the beginning. Even one ever-so-slightly negative comment can be a deathblow to that fragile thing we can the artist’s ego.

Artists need to show their art only to the gentlest eyes at first; and then gradually, as their skin thickens and the armour of their confidence becomes more durable, it will become easier and easier for them to open up and show their art to the world.