Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Writing Letters to the World

"Walked out this morning, don't believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I'm not alone at being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home"
-The Police

Okay, so the quote's a bit obvious. So sue me. It still hits on where I want to get with this post. A couple of days ago I wrote about writing as reaching out. Now, this brings up the question of who you or I are reaching out to. Put another way, it's the question of audience.

Depending on who you talk to, there are a lot of different ways you can break down audience with respect to genre, immediacy, etc. I tend to think of it in terms of three types of audience we write for: ourselves, people we know, and people we don't know. By people we don't know, I'm talking about people like magazine editors, book agents, and strangers who'll be picking your book off the shelf.

I usually have an audience in mind that's much like Camii. I've been writing letters to her for years and all that time I've been working on finding the right words to describe exactly what's happening in my life and my reactions to it. It's all about this idea of, "You're not here, but if you were, this is what it would be like." It's a strange and neat thing to be friends with someone almost solely through written words. Yet, here we are some six (or is it more now?) years later.

As a result, it's natural for me to use a narrative style and voice in my creative writing that has a lot in common with my letters. I'm trying to accomplish the same things in both. I'm trying to get to that point where I can put someone else inside my head and have them see out through my eyes. In a way, I guess my ideal audience can usually be described as someone else who doesn't know they're me yet.

Of course, since I'm submitting work for publication (not to mention blogging), that creates a change in my audience. Or, is it just that I'm trying to become friends with people I have never and may never meet?

When you sit down with your writing instrument of choice, how would you describe your intended audience? Is this description always the same? What's most important to you in your description?


-John said...

Generally, I only worry about whether or not something I write makes sense, or can be interpreted differently than intended. After that, the audience will present itself. However, there are times I've had to think about audience, and for that I use a modified approach from what I learned when in high school learning how to write like a journalist. They say target a seventh-grade level, not too dumb, not too smart (they say). Instead I go for a smarter than normal seventh grader, or at least try to.

Camii said...

It's been nearly six, yes.