Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor

The Audience in my Head

By Jessica Corra Tudor
Copyright © 2007 by Jessica Corra Tudor, All Rights Reserved

I don't consciously think about who I’m writing for while I'm writing. That would be like allowing my Inner Editor off her leash and letting her invite friends. I do all my planning and editing with an audience in my head, however. I find that in the pre- and post- writing stages, thinking about my audience proves valuable.

So who is my audience? For me, it's my twin sister and my husband, whose tastes are worlds apart. My twin sister is analytical, acerbic, and secular. My husband is quick-witted, religious, and handsome -- and also brutally honest and very picky. I ask myself, "Would they both read it?" This is what keeps me balanced. What offends my husband is no big deal for my sister, and vice versa.

How is this helpful to me as a writer? Doesn't trying to balance both sides just mean I'm pretty boring? You'd think so. I look at it another way: readership appeal. Not everyone is going to want to read a historical thriller with fantasy elements, but if they did, would they read mine? The readership extremes are represented in my head by my audience. Rather than limiting me, they often prompt me in better directions. For instance, it would offend my husband if a character outright cursed. How else can I show his frustration?

It's not so different from the characters floating around in my head as I plan the story. It's one thing to look at an action and ask if a character would really perform it. It's another to ask if it's something anyone would want to read. My audience is my objective yard stick, because as a writer I don't have an objective bone in my body.

I know someone will argue with me, "But I write for myself! Why should I bother with other people's opinions?" Well, aside from a desire to publish, you mean. I know writers who are their own yardstick, and write things they would want to read. I can't do that. I'm a really picky reader and I am also a very poor judge of my own writing, as many writers are. So what I think is brilliant and original... well, I'm more likely to see its flaws when I run it by my sister and husband -- in my head. Note that my audience contains people I know very well; I can assume the responses they make in my head are what they would really say because I know them so well. 

Considering other people's opinions may keep you from spending a lot of time with a piece that is ultimately not going anywhere, no matter how cool you think blue pixies are. 

While I'm not going to tell you that pieces you write may not be worthwhile, because we learn from everything we write, I am going to say that if we're critical upfront with our work -- objectively, truly critical -- we'll probably spare ourselves some heartache and wasted time, and maybe even become better writers for it. If you take yourself seriously as a writer (especially if you plan to submit your work), you should consider your readership. Even if you ultimately reject having one in your head (enough voices already, maybe?) you should still ask the question, "Would anyone read this besides my mom?" It may seem obvious but then again, maybe not. And since I'm the last person who can answer that question about my work, I leave it up to my husband and sister.

(Or maybe I just like to see them argue…)