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Old 07-31-2012, 04:30 AM   #1
gmw
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Writing for your reader

In a separate thread I noted that my work had been criticised because it was not obvious who I was writing for - who was my expected reader. Were they young or old, male or female, and so on. While I might argue with some of the examples from my text that the reviewer came up with, I cannot argue this central conclusion. I can honestly say that I never thought of the reader as some separate external entity. I didn't write for someone else. I wrote for myself, and my tastes range widely, so I'm not totally surprised that my writing is not as tightly targeted as a professional might want.

It may be time for me to more specifically address that aspect of my work, if I really intend to publish ... or at the very least keep it in mind over my next edit and reworking of the novel. Then again, while I can see this may be important in some very specific genres (and childrens' books), I am not so certain that I consider it such a big deal in things like fantasy and general fiction (I'm not really a believer in "YA" tags and similar).

I was curious of other writers thoughts on this matter. How much do you consider some specific target reader while you are writing? How much do you let it control what you write (not just language-wise, but also in plot and character development)?
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Old 07-31-2012, 05:54 AM   #2
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You are absolutely correct. There is so much nonsense about writing for certain audiences. I note how some people disparage 'The Stranger" as high school material. I wonder when Camus wrote that book whether he thought it would even be taught in high school. The same is true of Buck's "The Good Earth," and Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." If you deliberately target teens, you run the risk of talking down to them.
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Old 07-31-2012, 09:10 AM   #3
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I think first and foremost a writer has to write for him/herself otherwise what's the point? If you try to write for some imaginary person or group you are more likely to sound forced or otherwise unreal in your text. And if you aren't writing for yourself first then chances are you aren't writing a tale that you want to tell either.
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Old 07-31-2012, 09:39 AM   #4
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I target my readers... I write for people that understand English, enjoy reading, enjoy ebooks, and have a small amount of disposable income to speed on books. Oh, and primarily are Amazon or B&N shoppers.
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Old 07-31-2012, 12:10 PM   #5
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I think first and foremost a writer has to write for him/herself otherwise what's the point? If you try to write for some imaginary person or group you are more likely to sound forced or otherwise unreal in your text. And if you aren't writing for yourself first then chances are you aren't writing a tale that you want to tell either.
We are sympatico my friend. Now I must tell you upfront that writing is not my first job and therefore I think that I am not unduly influenced by the "publish or perish" pressure that is intense for those attempting to live off their "quill" or even those that in their very core of existence want to "make it big" and display placards that say "soul for hire" in case there are any takers.

I write stories that I like. The only considerations that might come up concerning my audience is character selection and placement and there I think that I am intuitively influenced enough by literature in general that I automatically do what usually works and never try those odd experiments in writing which you might find in a "Left hand of Darkness." or in a Gordon Dickson "human traits division" book, or say a very stylized "Gor" series. I do admire those authors and their abilities, but I think they went too far on occasion. Mr Spock would have said many times "does not compute."
In passing, I think that sometimes the success an author has with a first book then drives him into "pot boiler" mode and the vast outpouring of words to satisfy a publisher. "Dune" was a case in point. A wonderful first book, a great movie, and then a proliferation of crap ensued.
I have to admit even the great Robert Jordan in the "Wheel of Time" succumbed to the forces of the "money making" machine and began to churn out 700 page books that should have been 200 pages, but at least they didn't become pathetic like Dune and Gor in their later cycles.

I also stay away from the use of stilted language, though I do admit an admiration for "Yoda" type expression. (A favorite character of mine.)
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Old 07-31-2012, 04:01 PM   #6
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There's nothing wrong with tailoring your writing towards a segment of the public... assuming you can do it. Some writers are quite good at it, but not all.

But targeting a stereotypical group is always problematic and imprecise; not everyone in such a group is actually going to know the same words and idioms, or desire the exact same thing from a book. The most you can do is assume a "largest common denominator" and write to them, thereby risking the alienation of everyone else. If your LCD is large enough, that may be fine; otherwise, it's a wasted effort.

Generally speaking, you rarely go wrong in overestimating your audience (by at least a little)... most of them can learn. I just write and assume my target audience can handle my writing style well enough to enjoy the story. I avoid going overboard in jargon and wordy descriptions, and it seems to work.
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Old 07-31-2012, 09:56 PM   #7
Lloyd Tackitt
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I have a target audience in mind, it's a niche audience more or less, but I write for myself.
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Old 07-31-2012, 11:23 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by gmw View Post
I was curious of other writers thoughts on this matter. How much do you consider some specific target reader while you are writing? How much do you let it control what you write (not just language-wise, but also in plot and character development)?
Well, for one I can't use mah jongg tile characters because the average reader barely supports Unicode 2.0.
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Old 08-01-2012, 06:39 PM   #9
Andrew H.
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Generally speaking, you rarely go wrong in overestimating your audience (by at least a little)... most of them can learn. I just write and assume my target audience can handle my writing style well enough to enjoy the story. I avoid going overboard in jargon and wordy descriptions, and it seems to work.
I think that one of the things that I find most annoying is when I feel like I'm being written down to.
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Old 08-02-2012, 08:56 AM   #10
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I target my readers... I write for people that understand English, enjoy reading, enjoy ebooks, and have a small amount of disposable income to speed on books. Oh, and primarily are Amazon or B&N shoppers.
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Old 08-02-2012, 08:59 AM   #11
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I think that one of the things that I find most annoying is when I feel like I'm being written down to.
Then it could be that you are reading the wrong book, eh?

I do know what you mean though and have certainly abandoned books for that very reason. But it may or may not be the fault of the author.
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Old 08-02-2012, 10:30 PM   #12
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Got to agree with most of the sentiment expressed here. I write for myself as well. This only gets to be a problem when it comes time to "promoting" my work - which I loathe.

My publicist assigned me this task: find blogs where your audience hangs out.
My answer: ....umm....[crickets chirping]

I don't know where my audience hangs out. Forums like this one? I don't write for anybody in particular - though I do have loyal fans who are hounding me for the next installment of my series. Do I write for them? Nah. It's more like I'm on a journey, and some friends have either come to the train station to see me off, or have come along for the ride. And then there's those who just happen to be in the same car...

I'm getting lost in my metaphor now.
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Old 08-03-2012, 12:59 PM   #13
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Only tangentially related, but this from the back of a Richard Thompson CD that I happened to read last night: "I am communicating with a certain number of people, and if my music is too dark or in your face for some, or not glossy enough for mass appeal, I'm glad."

Of course he's offering this opinion from the perspective of a guy who has enjoyed some success.
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Old 08-04-2012, 05:46 AM   #14
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Hm. I've made this kind of comment to various people, and, looking back, I have to say that the common factor is that the writing in question is to be found on sites for writers, and usually comes from people who say they write for themselves.

My view is that writing is a communication, and you've got to say something that's understandable. Yes, I write for myself, in the sense that I have to have an interest in the subject - otherwise I'm doing something completely pointless. But I think I have to try and interest other people in what it is I am writing about. If I have to say to someone 'what the hell are you on about?' then a polite way of saying that is to ask them who their target audience is, whom they are writing for.

The usual answer is 'I'm not interested in selling my work' which usually ends the conversation as far as I'm concerned, not because I write for money, but because what they are saying is that they're not interested in communicating. They should write a diary.

PS, I gave up using sites for writers a long time ago now.
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Old 08-05-2012, 09:08 AM   #15
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Hm. I've made this kind of comment to various people, and, looking back, I have to say that the common factor is that the writing in question is to be found on sites for writers, and usually comes from people who say they write for themselves.

My view is that writing is a communication, and you've got to say something that's understandable. Yes, I write for myself, in the sense that I have to have an interest in the subject - otherwise I'm doing something completely pointless. But I think I have to try and interest other people in what it is I am writing about. If I have to say to someone 'what the hell are you on about?' then a polite way of saying that is to ask them who their target audience is, whom they are writing for.

The usual answer is 'I'm not interested in selling my work' which usually ends the conversation as far as I'm concerned, not because I write for money, but because what they are saying is that they're not interested in communicating. They should write a diary.

PS, I gave up using sites for writers a long time ago now.
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