I was at the dentist the other day and I noticed that the magazines all seemed to be aimed at women of a certain age. There was More magazine, and AARP and one whose name I don’t remember but seemed to be about cheap places to retire. Now the dentist I was seeing was a young man so that seemed odd. Until I looked around the room, and realized uh, huh. The dentist was aiming his waiting room magazines toward the tastes of his patients.
Writers need to do that too. We should have in mind who our audience is and write to them. If you visualize your sister’s grunge rocker boyfriend as the type who will like the book you’re writing, everything from the language to the world view of the main character is totally different than if you think your audience is say, the investment banker who lives in the mansion at the center of town.
Let me give you an example. I was once in a critique group with a woman who was writing a mystery–a very good mystery. But she couldn’t decide on the sub genre. Some days she thought traditional, some days she thought maybe it was Noire. She just couldn’t decide.
But every time the group met she had more of the novel written. She made choices about the character’s sex life, the language she used and her general thoughts about the world. The character was a modern young women who thought the 3rd date meant sex and who didn’t think the F word was worthy of being called a bomb.
And then the author told the group she had decided that based on the fact that the heroine was an amateur sleuth in a small town, she believed her novel was a cozy. Since she was at least nine-tenths of the way through the first draft, we disabused her of that idea.
Cozy readers tend to be older and more conservative. They don’t want to read about someone’s sex life or sift their way through expletives.
Her reader mattered. Sure she could edit; it would just take some time. But it would also change the heroine–change the book.
I’ve come to believe that from the first word you put on paper, you should know who you are writing for. Who would read this book?
Because writing is a conversation with the reader.