I was having lunch with a friend the other day and after a long winding conversation we ended up talking about my first novel, Deadly Troubadours. What she had to say about it resonated with me and I’m trying to work it out. What better way to work something out than to write it down for public view?
Just for a little bit of background, she and I have known each other for about three years now and I have a great respect for her. She extremely intelligent and insightful. That said, I don’t think I always agree with her conclusions, but I certainly know that there is a lot to gain from examining them. I can only hope that she has similar feelings towards some of my opinions.
Some of what we talked about was concerning the audience for and tone of Deadly Troubadours.
I’ve never been good at identifying audience. Even back in my school days when part of a lesson was to identify the audience a particular author was shooting for I couldn’t quite figure out wha that question meant. I mean, when I write something I kind of consider my target audience “people who can read.”
Okay, I can certainly appreciate my style won’t be a hit with everyone. And I struggled a few times in the writing when I came to something horrible that was about to happen. I looked at those scenes and thought how if I cross that bridge then I’ll stop being acceptable to recommend to younger readers. I scratched my head and didn’t know what to do. But I wanted to write how I write, and sometimes that means terrible things happening. Sometimes that means thinking that the best word to use is “fuck.”
Those decisions likely cut me off from certain audience members. Maybe it was a stupid decision. However, I also think it was the decision that was best for me and my current style. Maybe maturing as a writer will mean being better at toning things down or refraining from harsher language. Maybe.
So that means that maybe my writing isn’t for younger readers, but what does that say about my current readers?
It’s times like this that I wish I had more reviews on Goodreads (hint, hint). Right now it is too low a number to draw any really conclusions from. All I can really say is that it seems like my audience is fairly balanced between women and men. And isn’t that the best?
Who is my audience? What audience am I writing for. That is such a hard notion. My ideal answer just feels simplistic. I’m writing for me. I’m writing for people who want to read the books that I want to read.
I’m writing for the people who want to laugh on page 57 and be shocked on page 60. I’m writing for those who don’t want their “fun” books to pull their punches. I’m writing for those who don’t want their dark stories to be relentlessly grim but be sparkled with sunshine.
As a point of criticism I was told that some of the fun aspects of the book make some of the darker aspects even harder. My first reaction was “That’s the point. That’s why I like it.” As I thought about it more I couldn’t shake that first impulse.
Now, like I said, I have great respect for this friend and I think she has a valid point in that I need to work at getting better skilled in transitions from the two extremes. But I don’t think I can choose between madcap, silly fun and horrible, gut punches. I want to offer both of those options to my readers.
As for my audience, until I get better at deciding I guess my chosen audience is those who are up for fun adventure with tints of darkness.
One thought on “Audience and Tone”
I remember reading the biography of Anne Rice years ago. She talked about editors worrying that her stuff wouldn’t sell (it was really quite different from anything else at the time). She told her editor that if she herself liked it, then probably someone else would like it too. She was right.
You aren’t going to lose a young reader over the eff word, trust me. The only thing you’d lose is an editor willing to label your book YA, but you haven’t gone through traditional channels anyway, so don’t sweat it.
You may lose some readers over characters dying et cetera, but you’ll gain others. Some people don’t like unpleasant surprises, while others are just happy to be surprised at all. You cannot please absolutely everyone. It is impossible and you’ll drive yourself nuts if you try. You know what you like, so write to others like you!