Writer, Meet Your Audience
When I was an undergrad student, I had a stubborn view on audience. I argued that the writer wrote solely for him/herself, that the reader either enjoys the writer’s art or does not.
How wrong I was.
I tried arguing this stance in formal papers to professors. Yet their red pens circled and criticized, pointing out that my argument “only further proved that the writer must know their audience.”
And my audience was against me.
My stubborn view changed after my Writing and Genre capstone class. The professor assigned a romance novel for us to read. That’s right, a romance novel.
Although I love a good soap opera, the romance novel audience did not include me.
But there was a point. After reading the romance novel, the professor asked us to consider these questions:
- Who would choose to read this novel?
- Why would they choose to read this novel?
- In what ways is the writer fulfilling the needs of the reader?
It was the first time I ever considered the reader having a point of view. I was so wrapped up in being the writer that I forgot what it was like to be the reader.
Sometimes the biggest lessons are saved for last.
This lesson continued when I started my marketing career in higher education. I loved the college I was hired to promote, but I couldn’t write my ads from my point of view. Boasting stats and rankings wouldn’t have resonated with our potential student audience.
In order to be effective, I had to consider the audience’s point of view and write from there.
So how does the writer take on the reader’s point of view?
Think about a particular writing project of yours and ask yourself these questions:
- What is happening in your reader’s life that would make your writing resonate?
- How would your reader define an enjoyable reading experience?
- How does your reader decide what is interesting to read?
- What are barriers in your reader’s life that keeps him/her from reading your writing?
- Who and what influences your reader’s decision to read your writing?
- What would your reader admire about your writing?
- What would your reader dislike about your writing?
Knowing who your reader is, are you fulfilling the needs of your reader? How can you enrich their experience more? How can you make sure they choose to read your writing?
Reflect on these questions periodically as you write and revise your work. Things change over time: Your writing, your audience, even your perspective on life, your work, and your audience.
Even I changed my perspective.
It helps to ask of one’s own writing, “Would I read this?”
A lot of writers make the mistake of assuming readers will automatically be as in love with their characters as they are. I know I’ve written some material that was ultimately dull and inert because no one wanted to hang out with characters who have little to do. Readers might have loved those characters surrounded by an intriguining plot with escalating tension and intrinsic momentum, but I wasn’t able to create that (I tried to go for a slow burn of tension, but by the time the threat came, 120 pages of nothing happened). Fortunately, we always come out better for our writing experiences, even the failures.
You pose a great question, Eric. We writers must ask ourselves what kind of characters our readers relate to, sympathize with, and find intriguing. That way, the reader is more invested when the character fails and succeeds.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!