I was out hiking the other day, and I started thinking about audiences. About the “how” and “who” that every writer is supposed to keep, at the very least, in the back of his or her mind as the words pour onto the page.
Hey, these are the kind of things I think about when hiking in the middle of a blizzard. Wait…what…you’re surprised by that? Shit, I write entire scenes in my mind as I hike! Now, whether I manage to retain them or not is another question entirely…hence Rule #1: you write it, right away — you always write it.
I suspect I’m not alone in my instinct to “just write”. Just write the words…just write the characters…just write the emotions and thoughts and needs, and let the rest of the bullshit take care of itself.
Look, I’ve mentioned before the questions that irk the hell out of me — well, one of the biggest of those is, “Who are you writing for?”
I’m writing for me. There ain’t no other answer in my little corner of the writer-ish universe. In the words of my current protagonist, I write “for me, and for my ghosts.”
Why the hell should I worry about who? Why the hell can’t I just write the damned story that lives in my head, and let the chips fall where they may?
*sigh* Apparently, even writers have to adult sometimes…
Okay, so when I get over my artistic snit, even I have to admit that your audience matters. A story written for my high school senior niece would, of necessity, be pretty damned different from one written for my brother…and different yet again as one written for my parents.
Your audience matters. It matters to the tone, it matters to the plot, and it sure as hell matters to the characters, and how you portray them.
Honestly, I don’t think anyone who has read this blog for more than a couple of posts will be surprised by the fact that I’m nothing more than a big, arrested adolescent. I’m a twelve-year-old with a car and a job, as a friend once told me. And, believe me, I like it that way. I also write that way…err, maybe not as a twelve-year-old*, but most definitely as an arrested adolescent.
*There is far too much abuse of booze and drugs in my stories for that, not to mention far, FAR too many uses of various versions of the word “fuck”…
I didn’t set out to write in the YA space, by the way. Hell, I didn’t want to write in the YA space. I just wanted to write stories about the lost and broken, about those ground under the wheels of progress and success. I just wanted to write stories about the darker realities of life, and about the underside of the future that I see coming. That those stories all center on the young, on those we would normally call “innocents”, is more an outgrowth of my own life and history than it is a coherent choice.
The problem is that as of now I’m stuck in that space, at least from the point of view of the publishing industry. That means I have to keep in mind the norms of YA, and the ever-changing unwritten rules of YA.
Shit, I write about drug addicts and prostitutes. I write about hopelessness and depression. I write about suicide and murder and nihilism. I write, when you get right down to it, about the death and (hopeful) rebirth of hope.
“Do your characters have to curse so much?” one editor asked me.
“The story is great, but can you get rid of the drugs and sex?” asked another.
Yes, the fucking well do.
No, I fucking well can’t.
So much for adulting as a writer.
I will prostitute the hell out of my soul for success in the writing game. I will sell pieces of my anatomy, and of my family’s — little does my brother know, but his left testicle has already been traded to a publisher for a deal on a couple of articles! — but I won’t sell my story’s soul.
When I set out to write this post, I wanted to talk about how we writers have to keep in mind our audience. How we have to be like salesman in that we have to always tailor what we say to our audience. Then my own pride — my own soul — proceeded to undercut the shit out of that argument.
Maybe that’s why I’m an EX-sales-monkey. It certainly is why all my writing deals seem to be lacking the number of zeros that would truly make me financially secure…
My brain hurts thinking about this crap.
Shit, I’m a writer. I just want to write stories. I want to write the stories I want, the stories that live in my head. However many — or few — folks out there who actually want to buy those stories is, well, secondary at best.*
*Sorry, Dad, but I’m just never gonna bring those old business and sales skills to my writing life…
Okay, I can hear the demands in my head — the following group of pictures were all taken in that famous blizzard-driven, winter praradise of JUNE: