The Audience at Bay

twilight4601I should jot down notes for my latest story ideas. I should research the different types of eco-friendly wood used for cabinetry. I should turn on the lights; it’s awfully dark in here. But, instead, my dear reader, I would like to speak to you about Stephen King’s recent comments about Twilight author, Stephanie Meyers.

Published in a gazillion blogs and pop culture websites across the net, King has publicly criticized Meyers on her quartet of vampire romance novels, noting that while her style of writing takes a complete nose dive, her stories captivate a strong demographic of young girls who can relate and fall in love with the romantic themes in her stories:

“It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it’s not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet.” -Stephen King

Out of all the articles I read, this one from interested me because it mentioned that Meyers’s fans were very upset by the comments and have a few fighting words of their own:

“Steven [sic] King doesn’t know what a real book was if it hit him in the face. He’s just a bloody guy who is jealous of Edward’s good looks.” -Kiki Alice Cullen (Guardian Poster)

You can have your own opinions about whether or not Meyers’s work is a literary piece of art. But, King’s observation of the demographic her stories speak to is dead-on. And it’s something I don’t think too many of us creative writers consider in the earlier stages of our own journey.

Who is your audience? When conceiving of a new idea, should you have the audience in mind? And, if you do, then does that take away from the creative process of your story?

Originally, when I wrote this entry, I thought about how we might think about our audience before we consider what we write. I was wrong in doing so, as I’m now learning through my own experience, because you never know who will pick up your work. Now, if you are into genre writing (horror, suspense, chick lit, adventure, etc), then becoming familiar with the audience is key. Most of what I wrote in this entry is geared towards genre writers – those who aim to shape their stories in an easily labeled category. It isn’t wrong or unoriginal to become a genre writer – talent doesn’t dictate the success of those who’ve tackled this type of fiction. I actually find it harder to write with a certain genre in mind unless you know your audience really well. Then again, if you want your work published, you want to be able to define your story on marketable terms… Twilight is a supernatural romantic thriller for example.

But, for now, let’s not worry about publishing and all of that mess. Let’s talk about your work right now! You don’t have an audience in mind and, quite frankly, some may say it’s better that way. At least for your first or second flash fiction/short story/novel/novella/whatever. If you’re worrying about what type of person will read your work as you’re writing, then your story is going to change, and probably not for the better. Take your idea, nurture, let it develop, rewrite ’til it’s perfect, then have others read it. Not just your friends – everyone. Read others’ reactions, their criticisms, what they hated or liked about your story. From there, if you publish your piece, you can get some clue as to who may enjoy your story. And once you understand who your audience could be, then you can submit your stories to relevant markets that cater to readers who want you!

I want to write for everybody – okay, writer, but the truth is that as much as you would love it if everyone could read your work, they won’t. You’re also generalizing your audience to the point where you might end up pumping out a generic plot and generic characters that are easily forgettable. So be careful of this pitfall. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, then ask yourself this: Would you read your own book? Why? What type of books do you like to read? How old are you? What sort of movies do you like to watch? Who are your favorite authors?

Me, for example:

  • I like to read books that are dark, sometimes comedic, graphic, and filled with memorable imagery.
  • I’m 23 years old.
  • I like horror movies, dark comedy, suspense, thrillers, foreign films, pulpy black-and-whites from the 1950s, and Quentin Tarantino films.
  • I like Bret Easton Ellis, Dean Koontz (sometimes), Chuck Paluhnick, Marquis De Sade, and Francesca Lia Block

So, from what I can gather, my audience is a twenty-something generation that’s into horror, pulp fiction, enjoys comedic moments in the face of life’s catastrophes, and maybe runs with the comic book crowd. My audience could be someone like me. If I wanted to expand my audience, then I must dig deeper into the heart of what I thought I knew about humanity. I must break through it. Do what you want with your story because, ultimately, it’s not about what you write – it’s about how you effectively drown your reader is a literary tidal wave – giving them permission to consume a life not yet explored through another’s perspective.

So what are you waiting for? What am I waiting for? Let’s start workin’!

Til’ next time!


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