Know Your Audience

Photo credit: Patrick “adwriter” on Flickr

Consortium Members Unite and Conquer

Last week I was at a meeting of the writers of the Consortium. Many exciting things are happening, the first of which is a short story e-zine coming this fall. This means that in just a few months you will have the opportunity to read a plethora of tales by our very own members in the realm of speculative fiction – all on the comfort of your own computer, Kindle or favorite electronic reading device. (Are your palms glistening with the sweat of anticipation yet?)

At that meeting, which some prefer to call a “workshop,” we critiqued each others’ submissions, nibbled on snacks, held friendly (and snarky) chatter, “nurtured” each other in the honest and direct manner of Jessie, gave encouragement and joked about a range of related and unrelated topics such as “Things I’d Rather Do than Fight a Zombie Elf” (thanks to Courtney Cantrell).

Open Mouth, Insert Foot…or Obscure Witticism

Late into the evening, most of the stories had been discussed, most of the food eaten and most of the writers sufficiently “nurtured,” turning the conversation to other casual chat. As usual, the banter had flown. Aaron had again related (read: fabricated) Courtney’s connection to Germany with Nazism. Courtney had suggested provoking Josh’s son’s timepiece-fixation with Jessie’s clock-hand earrings. Thomas and Josh had sufficiently mocked Jessie’s knowledge of [fictional] spaceship mechanics. And vengeance had been tweeted (#tweetvengence) on those who made comments of an ambiguous nature.

I don’t remember the topic, but at some point, Josh Unruh made a Hip Hop reference joke. (Josh, if I used the wrong term, you’ll have to forgive me. I’m not “down” with the “lingo.” [insert air quotes]) The room went quiet for a minute and Trish finally broke the silence by saying she didn’t get the reference. I’m not sure if anyone did. And Josh realized (possibly not the first time ;)) that some of his go-to humor was going over the heads of his fellow writers.

Know Your Readers

After witnessing Josh’s faux pas, I was reminded of a very valuable lesson for any writer. Know your audience. If you’re writing YA, don’t fill it with 80’s pop culture references. If you’re going for a religious audience, don’t assume foul language or sexually explicit scenes are going to go over well. Think about what your target audience’s expectations and then give them what they want (or don’t, but at least do it as a conscious decision, keeping your readers in mind). Knowing your readers isn’t just about don’ts. It will also let you know what tropes you can lean on and give you clues to what you can (and can’t) get away with.

You can tell the story you want to tell, but if you want to receive the best response, don’t forget your audience’s viewpoint.

Other posts you might also be interested in:

Tunes for Writing

When You Run Out of Imagination

6 Ways to Effectively Manage Writing Time

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