Hey, Writerly Women. We've been talking this month about the importance -- okay, the essentiality -- if that isn't a word, it ought to be because we need something stronger than "necessity", which applies more to things like having enough coffee and toilet paper -- of knowing exactly who you're writing your novel for. We need to know that exact person, the precise reader.
We need to be able to SEE her. Or him.
And why not? We're writers. We imagine people all the time and try to get readers to believe they're real. Only ... these folks who are going to read our stories ARE real. We simply have to have a visual of who they are, right down to the individuals.
Client (and dear friend) Loretta has allowed me to share hers --
As I wrote Sainthood, I imagined my readers this way:
Four people sit on a rock in the mountains, contemplating the meaning of their lives and where they are headed.
A sixty-year-old- man with a tailored white beard listens to the calls of the wildlife while watching the waves lap along the shores of the mountain lake. His life is much further along than he recognized, and he now contemplates what he will be remembered for.
At the same time, a forty-year-old mother sits on a nearby rock holding close the breathtaking views while considering what it took for her to enjoy this escape.
Next to her is a twenty-two-year-old man who is just starting his life that so far has only been measured by completing tests and conquering job applications. He wonders where he is headed and seeks authenticity in those around him.
The last man, a forty-five-year old priest dressed in jeans has rushed here seeking a last-minute reprieve from his parishioners who demand all his time and energy. He wishes to experience God in the quietness and beauty of creation, away from crowds and anyone who is in need of spiritual guidance…so he can regroup and find his own path again.
I don't know about you, but I can almost smell these people. That's because Loretta describes her audience the way she portrays her characters. That's how vividly we need to picture them too.
We need to be imaginal about our audience.
Another among us here is still figuring out that one reader. So far, she has the general idea:
My ideal readers are women , but I would be thrilled if men read my book too. I want to reach people that have tried to bury their pain and think that success and wealth is all they need, just like my protagonist. I long to see families reconciled after years of hurt, misunderstandings and dysfunction. And I also want to reach readers that can identify with my strong female character. Women who have suffered great loss and are afraid to love again.
She's getting there, right? But in terms of imagining a reader perched on her desk as she writes, it's going to get fairly crowded. Instead of serving her reader a latte, she's going to have to open a coffee shop.
HELP A FELLOW WRITERLY WOMAN OUT: If you were writing to your fellow writer's audience, which one of that group of hurting people would you choose to focus on. How would you describe him or her in about five sentences, being as specific as you can?
Since I can't resist, here's mine: She sits in the bay window while her mother in law bustles into the kitchen to freshen up her tea. Thank the Lord the usual selection of self-help books is missing from the window seat. The woman has finally gotten the message that there are no Five Steps to Recovery from Whatever Blocks Your Happiness, at least not for her. But as she leans back to try to ease that familiar dull ache that has no end, she feels something hard behind her and pulls out a book -- of course. This, however, appears to be a novel, and a fan of the pages brings her to a line that actually makes her pause in mid-ache. Are you serious? Does somebody actually get what this feels like?I took it with me.
Let's see what you've got. Or share your own. Be imaginal. I don't know if that's a word, either, but who's checking?