Sunday, June 26, 2011

Audience Matters


RS Mellette, another FTWAer, had a post that really got me thinking. You can find it here.

There's apparently a wide range of opinions about how much attention an artist (of any kind) should pay to the audience. Strangely, I hadn't thought much about this before.

I teach middle grade aged kids. I have them think about their audience all the time when they're doing their work. Writing a letter to a company to discuss their product requires a very different tone than texting a friend. Drawing a picture for yourself is different from producing a piece of art to display in the hallway. Preparing a slideshow to share with your class is different from picking photos to display as your wallpaper.

Audience is important.

Audience affects how you create whatever it is you're creating. When the kids are trying to decide on the form their creation is going to take, I tell them if they think about the purpose and the audience it should tell them what form to use. You don't write a letter to the queen starting with " 'sup? "

So, should the audience affect the writer? I'd say yes - especially if a writer wants to be published.

Even if a writer writes for herself/himself, the writer is writing to please the audience.

I don't mean you ONLY write to the audience - that wouldn't be any fun at all. You need to write your story with your flair - but I think you have to at least keep your audience in mind.

What do you think?

76 comments:

  1. I find that I automatically adjust the voice of the story for the intended audience. My MG stuff has a different voice than my adult fantasy writing. But I never really thought much about it;-)

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  2. Definitely keep the audience in mind. Whatever genre your writing under, the audience will have expectations that go with that particular subject matter.

    For example, you can't expect a thriller to entice someone who wants a straight up romance novel.

    This also brings to mind those who write across genres - does this mean you can only appeal to one audience or another? I think in some cases you can walk a plank between both. Maybe not in the beginning, but eventually a writers voice becomes recognizable enough.

    If you know definitely what your strong points are (a subject matter in which you shine more in than others) it might be easier to go with that target audience.

    At the end of the day you want to appeal to an audience not alienate them, how else will we get read. (Hugs)Indigo

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  3. Absolutley! let the story flow.. the mold it in the rewrites for your target audience.

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  4. Cinette - I hadn't thought of it much either. I've currently got stories at 3 age levels (MG, YA & adult romance) and they're all VERY different from each other!

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  5. Indigo - well said! I think my stories automatically have different tones and voices - because they're all aimed at different audiences. Knowing what the audience likes helps me out!

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  6. Michelle - I like that! I love that first draft that flows on its own. The molding can definitely come later on! :)

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  7. It's all about the audience. Writers need to know their demographic. I think that's one of the major reasons for book tours (in the past, not now so much) is to get to know who is reading your book. And same for blogging.

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  8. Karen - I agree. I think knowing the demographic & understanding what they like/want can only help. I think that kind of info floats around in my subconscious & helps me write my story!

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  9. Hi, jemi....

    You are so spot on. I have several different voices depending on the genre/audience.

    A writer or artist must imagine who they are talking to or what type of person they are creating a piece of art.

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  10. Michael - thank you! :)

    I agree - the audience is part of my kind of background knowledge for the story - kind of like the character's backstory I guess. :)

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  11. I kept my audience in mind while writing. They wanted to know why there weren't any women and I answered. And gave them a female lead!

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  12. Alex - love it!! Can't wait to see how the female lead messes with his head - 'cause I bet she's going to!!! :)

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  13. I think the age of a writer's audience matters immensely, but I'm not sure how much it extends beyond that. I do have to remind myself not to imagine my grandmother reading a particularly racy scene sometimes!

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  14. Funny. I was just talking about this today. I think, for the most part, there needs to be a balance. I can't imagine coming up with an idea based upon what I think an audience would like, but once I have my idea, I need to make sure it resonates.

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  15. I always like to secretly think there are other people like me who like what I like to write about if that makes sense!! LOL!! Now all I need to do is deliver as convincingly as possible! Yay! Take care
    x

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  16. totally agree. First draft is for self, all other drafts are for our intended audience :)

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  17. One has to keep the audience happy or they will get fed up and not finish the book or stay to watch the rest of the show whatever the case may be.

    Have a good day.
    Yvonne.

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  18. I think once you've established what genre and style you like to write in the audience aspect just comes with the cake. I don't think it's something we need to always focus on, once we know what we're doing. But, yeah, in the beginning, it's certainly something a writer needs to keep in mind.

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  19. Stephanie - so true!! I write in 3 age categories, so that's where my head normally is. You're sooooo right about relatives reading 'those' scenes!! :)

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  20. Missed Periods - LOVE your name, btw!!! :)

    I think you're right. Like so many other things, it's all about balance!

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  21. Old Kitty - that's perfect! I'm hoping someone will like to read what I have to write one day too! :)

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  22. Lynda - good way to put it! I think thinking about the audience can give me a springboard, but after that the draft is all me! :)

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  23. Yvonne - so true! We don't want the audience leaving half way through the performance!! :)

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  24. Jessica - yup. My ideas usually have something to do with the audience. It's either something my students would like to read ... or me. It all depends on the idea for me :)

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  25. LOL - I posted about something similar today. Yes, we should write what we love, but if we don't take our audience (and the market) into consideration, we're only writing it for ourselves.

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  26. I'm with you, Jemi. You have to know who your audience is, ie. YA or adult etc. and write having them in mind too.

    Also, it's interesting to listen to their feedback. Why not lean a bit towards what they like or take up a challenge once in a while? Of course, listening to them can't ever affect the core of your work, in the sense that you can't write *only* for them, as you mentioned.

    But interacting with the audience is inspiring (IMO), and they love to be heard.

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  27. While I write partially to my younger self, I always have my teenage audience in mind. It's not about creating a moral to the story. But it's hoping that something in my writing makes them feel less alone. They're not going through those feeling by themselves, and they're valid.

    Hopefully, I get to find out if I've connected with my audience soon!

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  28. I think a writer must definitely keep audience in mind to some degree while writing. But ultimately, we must write the books we are being called to write and deal with the audience during the marketing phase. Great advice here, Jemi.
    Karen

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  29. I think you have to keep the audience before you or you ed up writing to yourself.

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  30. I guess the way I see it is that if a book is well written, if the author has poured time, dedication, and talent into a story, it will find an audience. If you're aiming for a particular audience, you should keep it in mind - if you're writing YA, for instance - but the priority is the story. :)

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  31. I agree! You have to know who you're writing for. In fact, I just read a book that urged writers to outline their target demographic.

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  32. Sup, your Majesty? :) You always make me laugh, Jemi (in the good way of course)! I agree 100%. And, like you said, even if it is for YOU, you need to write for your audience.

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  33. It could be a delusion, but I like to think I represent my audience, and that if I write to please myself, I *am* writing to my audience.

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  34. Diane - great minds & all that :)

    I agree - if we want to be published, we need to take the audience into consideration when our idea is percolating or during our edits :)

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  35. Mari - terrific point! I agree - love the idea of getting some audience input - that certainly gives you an idea what works and what doesn't. :)

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  36. Theresa - I'm sure you have! I think about my audience when I get my idea - and see if it works together :)

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  37. Karen - good point. Our stories have to be the ones we love - otherwise they won't be very good. But the audience does matter!

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  38. Mary - that's a great way to phrase it. I agree -you do have to consider the audience if you want to be published!

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  39. Bethany - I write for 3 different age levels - and I think my consideration for the audience comes automatically along with the idea for the story. They just kind of match up. I think... :)

    We do have to write our own stories, don't we - otherwise it'll never work!

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  40. Talli - it works for me. I have to think about who I'm writing for when that idea pops into my head. They seem to kind of go together :)

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  41. Lynn - thanks :)

    It works for me. I think my ideas come when I'm thinking about what my kids (or I) would like to write to read.

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  42. VR - I don't think that's an illusion or delusion at all! When I'm writing the romantic suspense stories, I'm definitely the audience. I know what I like & that's what goes in the story!

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  43. If you're looking for an audience, which it makes sense that a writer would be, then pleasing them is the primary concern. Once you've decided what audience you are trying to reach, you need to give them what they want or you'll lose them, unless you have a masterful skill of captivating an audience and shaping them to appreciate your product--but that can take a lot of time and is a risky proposition.


    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  44. Lee - when you put it that way, it's downright terrifying!! I much prefer to get to know my audience by reading what they read and trying to write something they would enjoy!

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  45. But primarily what I'm saying is the same as what you're saying. You give them what they want by knowing what they want. The second part of my comment was in regard to the obstinate author who wants to get the audience to read something more than they might normally read or get heavy on them. If the audience is force fed and cultivates a taste for the literary food, then the author has done something incredible that most writers aren't capable of doing.


    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  46. Lee - I did follow your comment ... just didn't phrase my reply well. It's almost summer - I'm hoping to get my brain back then!!

    I agree. As writers, we need to keep our audience in mind - at least if we intend to try to sell our work! The terrifying part to me was the thought of trying to impact an entire group of people and their reading habits! I'd rather understand what they like and aim my story in that direction :)

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  47. Hi Jemi,
    Personally I never, ever think of myself writing to an 'audience'. My writing is, and always will be written for two people. For me and for the one person on the other side of the computer screen or via anything I have written. I believe in an intimate style. You will note I never write on my blog in a collective pronoun style.
    May 'you' have a peaceful and positive day.
    With respect, Gary :)

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  48. Gary - that's very cool! I tend to think in terms of my students when a YA or MG comes to me. Would they like it? Why or why not? When I'm writing for adults, I try to figure out if someone other than me would enjoy the story.

    That's when I actually think about it at all - usually I just attacked by the story idea and away I go! :)

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  49. That's a tough one. I think it's 50/50. I want to write with my audience in mind but not lose my creative contribution, if that's possible.

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  50. Word-up, dudette :)

    I've found that keeping in mind my audience can help me focus when I'm stuck. Like, when I'm writing a fantasy, and my love interests start taking over the plot. I have to choose; a romantic fantasy, or fantasy with a romance subplot. It can make a difference in the essence of the characters and plot concepts.

    Doesn't mean I can't try to entice both. I think Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series is the best example of Fantasy/romance writing I've seen in a long time. The Fantasy quest is the main focus, but I doubt it would work as effectively without the romance aspect between the two main characters.

    .......dhole

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  51. Teresa - I think it is possible! For me the audience consideration comes with the core of the idea. If I don't think it's going to work for an audience, I don't take the idea very far :)

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  52. Donna - excellent point! That's a great time to consider your audience. I do like my fantasy & romance mixed up together!

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  53. It's a fair question in that you don't want to change your creative idea... but at the same time if you are writing for publication you have to think about more than just your mind glut. I write YA, and although I don't *have* to be careful about language and sex if I don't want to, I choose to be.

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  54. I think you are spot on with this post. You write the story you want to write, whilst being mindful of the target audience.

    Great post!

    Ellie Garratt

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  55. Mindy - it is a balancing act I think. We have to tell our stories. But if we want to get published, we have to be aware of that too! :)

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  56. Ellie - thanks! It makes sense that way to me - but it's always interesting to see what others think too! :)

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  57. I like Stephen King's notion of the Ideal Reader. He tries to write with an audience in mind, while not trying to please everybody.

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  58. Beth - I'd forgotten about that! Thanks for the reminder - that's a fabulous way to approach it. King is brilliant! :)

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  59. You're absolutely right about audience affecting what and how you create if you want to be salable. But it's often the ones who ignore what's selling that push the barriers of art and open up new ways of seeing the world. What's wonderful is to have both: sales and new ways of interpreting.

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  60. Lee - so true!!! That would be wonderful! I think it's that special, rare talent that really reaches into both aspects!

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  61. that's an excellent thing to teach your students. Artists sometimes feel that when you create, an audience will follow. Not so! Audience is extremely important.

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  62. Heidi - thanks! I want my students to be aware of why they are doing a task & for whom - nothing happens in isolation. At least not in my little world! :)

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  63. Thanks for the blog link. I'm going to check it out.

    I think you should definitely keep your audience in mind. Especially if you write for middle-grade.

    But I also think if you try and convey universal feelings and appeal, it can make your readers empathize better with your work.

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  64. Karen - RS always has an interesting take on things - you'll enjoy it! :)

    Good point. I think the audience affects me most at the very beginning (when the core idea comes) and at the end (when I'm trying to polish). Emphathizing is good!

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  65. I think about my audience when I write. There was a time when I didn't, and a slow moving plot or nonsensical characters/action does not create a great story.

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  66. Medeia - that's true! If the story lags, the audience is sure going to know it - even if the author enjoys writing it! :)

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  67. Keep your audience in mind but don't be ruled rigidly by it, would be my advice... but then I suppose I don't always practice what I preach. There have been many times that I've gone to write a post for my blog and thought, "No, my followers wouldn't be interested in that."

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  68. Rosalind - that's good advice! Whether we always follow it or not :)

    I think you have to think of the audience at whatever point works for you - but at least at one point in the process! :)

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  69. As a fellow MG teacher, I totally agree with you that author's purpose is vital to understand. As a YA writer I really think we need to be in touch with what is going to resonate with our teen audience.

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  70. Leslie - thanks! I think so too. If we know what our audience is interested in, our subconscious is going to be working on ideas that fit for it! :)

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  71. Yes! Yes! It's a fine balance. I write my first draft for me, but I revise it with a reader in mind. Hopefully I can catch the best of both worlds that way.

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  72. Kari - I think that sounds like a perfect plan! So many things in life are about balance - and this is another one! :)

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  73. Audience is crucial. You can save yourself a lot of backtracking knowing upfront who that audience is.
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

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  74. Ann - I think so too. I think my ideas are linked to my audience. That's just the way they come! :)

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  75. I agree. Your target audience has certain expectations that a writer must meet. Even more so if you cross genres, like sci-fi and action. A love story along the way also helps. So in this example there are three areas a writer needs to address if they are to keep their audience engaged.

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  76. Stephen - exactly! And so many stories cross genres at least a little bit, I think it helps to keep in mind what the audience is looking for! :)

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