Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Who is your audience?

People often ask me, “Where do you get your ideas?” For me, at least, they’ve come from different sources. 

The idea for “The Hidden Sun” came from a scene I had in a dream. “The Waxing Moon” was based on a setting I thought of while editing “The Hidden Sun.” “The Zealous Star” was based on plot that came to me while writing “The Waxing Moon.” “The Mirror of the Soul” was based on a song from Chris de Burgh. “Wall of Faith” was based on a character (and actual events). 

When an author writes a book, the process usually starts with an idea for a character, setting or plot. Once in a while, you’ll hear an author start with their intended audience in mind. For example: “I want to write a middle-grade book.” 

It’s been interesting as I’ve worked toward my Master’s degree in Creative Writing how many people in my classes don’t consider who will read their stories. Often, when I ask them that question, they don’t have an answer. 

But does it matter? 

I’m going to make the following stand: yes it does. 

When I write my books, I want my daughters to be able to read them. That doesn’t mean they are all fluffy and full of puppies. Actually, my books are rather intense. Knowing who my audience is helped me decide what details to include and which ones to leave out. 

I posted an interesting question to a group of authors recently. I asked, “Would this be considered taking the Lord’s name in vain?” I then included the sentence in question, which was, “It’s not a claim. God knows, I wish it was,” Zachariah said. 

The response from the other authors was fascinating. Some were adamant that as it was written, it was taking the Lord’s name in vain—they even provided proof. And others were quite sure that it wasn’t taking the Lord’s name in vain—and they gave proof. 

Why did I ask the question and why do I care? Because I have never included any swear words in any of my books. I guess I’m trying to prove a point that engaging books don’t have to rely on using swear words or graphic violence and sex. 

In addition, the feedback I’ve gotten from readers has been overwhelmingly positive that I’ve written “clean” books which aren’t boring. 

So, what did I decide to do about the sentence where I thought I might be taking the Lord’s name in vain? I thought about my audience. If some of the authors considered it a swear word, than most likely many of my readers would as well. 

My solution? I changed the line to: “It’s not a claim. Heaven knows, I wish it was,” Zachariah said.

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