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lifeflame's avatar

Novelists: do you have a specific person (an Ideal Reader) in mind when you write?

Asked by lifeflame (5790 points ) February 15th, 2010

“I like to tell my writers to write for their mentor or fiercest critic. Write to the top of your form”—Betty Lerner, Forest for the Trees

Stephen King also mentions the Ideal Reader (his being his wife, Tabitha) in his book On Writing.

I know that some of my best writing actually takes place when I write letters (I’m still one of those people who persist in writing snail mail). When I have a clear audience in mind, my writing becomes much more focused than, for example, in my journaling. The necessity of communicating bulldozes through any attempts to sound pretty or fancy. In fact, a lot of my blog entries originated from letters to one friend or another.

But when it comes from writing novels, I don’t seem to have a particular, specific audience in mind. (I’m wondering if that is a reason that I’m having so much trouble?) .. so, fluther novelists—do you write with someone in mind? How does it work (or not) for you?

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13 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I write for myself.

TheJoker's avatar

To date I’m only a short-story writer, rather than a novelist. However my technique is to visualise the story, characters, events, locations etc in my head, then to write what I see. Basically I play it out in my mind as if it’s a movie. It had never occurred to me to write for a particular type of reader… & actually seems a bad way of going about it in my mind. If you’re writing for someone then surely you’re not expressing yourself…. like a boy-band in pop…. which actually explains a few things about Stephen Kings last, say 20 books.

Seek's avatar

Like @TheJoker, I write short stories.

I write with my characters in mind, not the reader. I tend to write either as though there were a sideline character sitting in a firelit tavern, telling the story to an intrigued audience, or by placing myself in the position of the main character in each scene. (I think this makes for an interesting delivery, as I write invariably in third person narrative form)

CharlieGirl's avatar

I like to write children’s story’s,but I’m not published.

Broken_Arrow's avatar

Yes. The one(s) that can pay for the book

kevbo's avatar

I don’t write much, but most of my writing is driven by listening and observation. What I mean is that I (in my mind) listen to the characters or observe the scene and then write down what is happening. So, I don’t think as much about another person and tailoring my storytelling to them. It’s more about fidelity to the thing being written about.

If I’m writing a letter to someone, it’s a similar process. I do have the recipient in mind, but it’s more about an on/off switch about whether I can trust them with what I am about to say. I let my thoughts pour out of my head—say events or news of the day, reflections on how this relates to some aspect of the human condition and treated with pessimism or optimism depending on my outlook. The process is of observing the thought, deciding whether to reveal it and in the case of doing so just letting it flow trusting that the recipient is at the very least going to be tolerant if not appreciative.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

I would have to say myself, or someone like myself. You could always go the section of the bookstore your book would be in and observe the people there.

nebule's avatar

Yes I do and it’s either a famous novelist friend of mine (I use friend in the loosest sense…we’ve spoken over the internet a few times!) or myself I don’t think there is anyone inbetween…but I’ll have to think on that one…GQ thank you!

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

My strongest writings are written to someone in particular. Like @lifeflame, I do not do this when writing longer forms. Perhaps this is why I, too, have difficulty keeping focus while writing longer forms.

absalom's avatar

It’s all autocommunication.

ChaosCross's avatar

Nope, I usually stop caring about the audience because they will be the one’s finding the book, I can’t say what someone else would really like. I just write.

davidk's avatar

Great writing starts with having passion for the subject matter. People who speak with great passion and conviction and back it up with solid research that resonates with the human experience gain listeners. Apply the same principle to writing and I don’t think you can go wrong.

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