Monday, March 05, 2007

The Interface

Writers have things that really excite them. Readers have things that really excite them. The trick is connecting the two, because in real terms the two are only intermittently the same. Furinstance, the thing that really makes me want to write is creating a cool new world and bringing people there. Of course, there's no market for writing travelogues for places that don't exist. So, I need to make sure that I find some way of connecting my passion to my readers, because no readers means no sales which means having to find something else to do. That means telling a really cool story that'd peopled with characters that my readers want to spend time with. And that's more or less the order in which a story goes together for me:

World and all the cool stuff.

Story that shows off said world.

Characters that are appropriate to the world.

But that's only one of 1001 and one ways to do it, all equally correct, and all of which have to have some way of addressing and engaging the reader. So, I'm wondering, how y'all handle that interface. In On Writing Stephen King talks about having his target reader (I think it was Muneraven who brought this up at Marscon, but I'm terrible at remembering that sort of thing, so if was someone else, please leap forward and take credit). I don't have a specific target reader other than myself. I try to write a story that I would really want to read. Others will have other systems, including (I presume) pretending that there is no audience because the thought of actual readers is paralyzing for some while they're working.

So, thoughts? Clever advice? Description of your target reader? Noodles?


Kelly Swails said...

I don't usually picture a reader in my mind; for me it's just telling the story I want to tell in the best way I know how. It might be easier sometimes to tell a story to a particular "person" ... but I dunno. Might be kind of limiting.

Douglas Hulick said...


Oh, um...

As seems to often be the case, I am pretty much the opposite of Kelly when it comes to methodology. I come up with either a character or a rough situation/scene first, then a sketch of the setting (whcih sometimes defines tone, too), then the story, and then flesh out the world itself. But for me, it is the character or situation that first grabs me, often in a very visual sense in my head.

I don't target a reader, really. I know that there will be a reader at some point, and I try to make sure things are moving well enough to keep them interested and not overly confusing, but generally I don't "write to" anyone. I do consciously "craft" as I go sometimes, and in those instances I know I am writing for someone, but those are in pockets, and not through the whole work.

Mainly, though, I try to keep things engaging. I know there is a nebulous reader out there somewhere, and I want them to enjoy the story, but I don't target any one kind of reader as I write. I think if I did that, I would end up second-guessing myself too much (and I already do enough of that as I write as it is :). I work better writing the story I want to write, not the story I think a reader will want.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I brought up Stephen King using Tabitha King as his ideal reader.

I do write stories I want to read myself, but I find that using my partner as my ideal reader forces me to stay away from a weakness of mine, which is a tendency to go off on humorous tangents. I have a rather odd sense of humor, sometimes, and I will follow something I find funny to its bitter end. Having it in my head that I am writing for someone else somewhat limits my tendency to go off and riff for several pages. It makes me get back to the story. I still write funny stuff, but I am more apt to keep it appropriate when I know I have a reader who wants to know what happens NEXT.