So, if you’re serving up any of those things, give my portion to someone else. Deal?
Despite the fact that most tastes are learned, we (the human sort) are a slave to our likes and dislikes.
You (in general) are probably too young to remember an iconic photograph that made the rounds many, many years ago. It was the picture of an old, toothless, and poorly dressed man in India (I believe) opening up a C.A.R.E. package (look it up if you don’t know about them, they once were not what they have come to be these days). The box was filled with candy bars, and the look of pain and disbelief on his face was classic. He needed rice, he needed whatever was the staple there, but that was not what he got. Could he survive on a box of candy bars? I don’t know. Probably, but not without difficulty and pain.
As a writer you need to know your audience.
Why? Because of something I call “The Programmer’s Syndrome”. A computer programmer gets an idea, he or she works out the algorithm, starts coding, and all the while sees an increasing public need and love for his or her project. The harder they work, the more they know… they KNOW, that what they’re doing will be used by everyone with a computer, and the programmer’s praise will be sung on high. I am not exaggerating here. I’ve seen it time after time. It happens even if the program is of little use to the general public.
What does that have to do with writing? Simple enough. We fall prey to the same syndrome. As we pour our souls and the sweat of our brows into our writing, we cannot help but imagine that the world is waiting with ‘bated breath to read our words.
In point of fact, our audience is typically small. If we understand who we are writing for, that knowledge can set us free. No, really.
If you don’t have to cater to readers who will never pick up your story, essay, poem or novel, you don’t have to consider them in your work. Does that sound harsh? It isn’t meant to. What is important isn’t so much not talking to some readers as it is being sure to talk to your intended audience.
How do you find your best audience? Simple, really. Look into a mirror. If you are writing something that you would not pick up and read (were it not by your own hand), then you are missing the audience you know best. If you like romances then you know something about people who like romances. Likewise with detective or science fiction stories. You already know something about the audience.
This is not to say you shouldn’t strive to expand your readership. Finding ways to incorporate mystery or intrigue into Literary Fiction, for example, might be just the key to pulling in people who like the strange, the tricky, the out of the ordinary.
Today’s challenge is to look back over what you have written and ask yourself two questions: One, would you read a book about your topic if you hadn’t written it yourself? And, Two, how can you adjust your work to expand it so you reach other hearts and minds?
This challenge is not made lightly. This topic is much more serious than you might think at first pass. It is so easy to shut out part—or even all of your intended audience and never realize you are doing so.