"What Happens Next?" Thoughts on Audience & Storytelling

Saturday, March 16, 2019
Photo via Pixabay
Did you know that there is someone out there in the world writing a novel in a day? Don't believe me? Read this.

While I have a hard time fathoming the idea that he is writing at least 50,000 words a day, this brought up a few thoughts on audience and story. One aspect of this writer's task is unique. He said this, "People will come by the bookstore or visit my race website, MikeRunsBoston.com. In exchange for making a donation to cancer research and prevention, they will be able to dictate a plot change, a new location, a character name, or pretty much whatever they want." If I lived near Boston, I'd go by just to watch him for a while and see what people suggest.

Can you imagine other people dictating what happens next in your story? Funny thing is getting feedback from other people often includes that. Sometimes people will flat out suggest something else - a different character, a different plot, a different idea. At its best, these suggestions are helpful insights into what could be missing in your story. At its worst, these suggestions can turn into an irritating dialogue that usually starts, "You know what would be so much cooler?"

The article also brings about an important aspect of storytelling I often forget about - the audience. He suggests a few important questions - "Who is your primary intended reader? Where do you want to take that person – how do you want to influence your key readership? What steps do you want them to take in their own lives, or with you, as the result of having read your book?"

When you are sitting at a desk in a bookstore and in exchange for someone's donation, you will change or add to your novel at someone's whim, you are basically accepting - however wild - the demands of your audience. Imagine that. Imagine you are writing in front of an audience and asking your potential fanbase, what they think and what they want different? This makes me wonder about what I would say to my own favorite authors.

I'm still in draft form in many ways in my own writing and I'm also still in short story land (although the question - where do I want to take my reader - still is important). Yet I am beginning to realize how much my audience matters. Who am I telling my story to? What would they want to see in this world I'm creating? What would I want them to walk away feeling like?

Most of the time when I write I focus on the story more than the audience. I sort of wrongly adopt the idea "if you build it they will come", in terms of audience. (Or I guess for a writer, if you write it, they will read.) Yet, that isn't the case, is it? So, as I sit down to write next time, I will challenge myself to ask the invisible audience before me, "What happens next?"

Do you think about your audience when you write? What do you imagine your own audience would tell you?


Sioux Roslawski said...

I do think about my audience when I'm writing creative nonfiction. However, in my recent fiction-writing foray, the main character kept my nose to the grindstone. After finishing the second draft, I looked at particular parts--along with the dialogue--and had my audience in mind.

I hope my audience would say, "Wow!" and "That is such a sad, exciting and scary story."

I too would be fascinated with someone writing that many words in one day. What are we doing wrong? :(

Nicole Pyles said...

I'm the same way - my first draft is for me; second draft for the reader!

And I'm not sure my hands and eyes could take me writing a whole novel in a day! Oh the agony!

Margo Dill said...

I think about me too. I think: What would I like to read? Also I think about my critique group: When I'm editing, I'm like: I have to cut this or they will be editing the heck out of this. Always have their voices in my head.

This guy has a unique idea. Thanks for sharing. I hadn't heard about it.

Renee Roberson said...

If I'm writing a short story specifically for a competition, I keep a general idea of the audience in mind. If I'm writing on my own, I'm like you, Nicole, and write mostly for myself in the first draft! I'm always amazed by the valuable feedback I get from other readers, but I do try to be selective about who I show my work to so I don't end up down a rabbit hole I don't need to be in, LOL!

Wendy Brown-Baez said...

I always adhere to write for yourself, edit for your audience, but I don't think that means you have to change your story to suit what they want or expect. To me it means that the writing is clear (rather then confusing), the characters believeable and stay in character, and the sequence of events make sense even if there are surprises. There are plenty of examples of novels where I don't like certain parts or certain characters or the ending, but to me the joy of reading is that it can shift your perspective by revealing what you haven't thought of yet.

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