Okay, for our 101st post here, I thought I'd show 101 pictures of Dalmatian dogs...
Yeah, okay, I'm lying. I'm not that mean. Okay, yeah, I am that mean, but simply far too lazy to do that much work. Heck, that 100 books post almost killed me.
But after my guest post over on Nathan Bransford's blog I started thinking about something. Sort of connected, really, to what I wrote about there, but a little different. Expectations, but expectations of a different sort.
I enjoyed doing that blog post, and enjoyed the wondrously kind comments. But it got me thinking about the expectations we have for an audience. Do any of you think about audience while writing? It's sort of a complex question for me, and one I'm not sure I have an answer for. Or perhaps the problem is that I have many answers for it, or one that's always shifting...
In one sense I sort of knew the audience at Nathan's, as I'm a regualr reader and commenter there. I have a feel for the tone, for some of the people. And yet you never really know what people are going to say. And for unpublished novelists it's even more so. Who's your audience? I think that holds for the reality of a possible future publication, but also for the abstract mental frameworks we hold while putting words on the page.
I know some writers think of particular people when they work, a very particular audience. Husband or wife or friend or parent. I don't think I do... and yet sometimes I'll think "What will so and so think of this?" Mostly I write for myself, for the reader in me, trying to find the story that I want to hear, that I want to read, something I couldn't find on the shelves. And yet there's certainly an awareness of other possible readers. Writing, at its heart, is an act of communication. A sharing, a bridge of ideas formed out of words and cabled sentences. So I'm aware of that potential audience, and sometimes hypothesize their reaction. To good effect... and ill. Sometimes it moves me to a clarity and simplicity that is advantageous, and sometimes it reins me in short, holds me back, makes me more conservative than I want to be... or should be.
And yet these expectations of an audience are just that... expectations. Dreams, whimsies, hypotheses. If a book comes to fruition there will be an actual audience. Real people. And the neat thing about publishing a book is finding that audience, and perhaps finding fans. Fans! People totally into and in love with what you wrote! I think most writers have some expectation of this. It's only natural.
And yet I'm guessing that this is one of those things (like my Plan, capital P) where the reality is something different than expected. I look at published writers interacting with the public and, yes, there are fans. But there are all sorts of other reactions, too. Oh yes, many strange reactions. People who hate the writing, or find it boring, or go on racist rants, or accuse the writer of racist rants, or psychoanalyze the story to make declarations about the writer's relationship with parental figures...
It's a dizzying mix of things. So it got me thinking about what my expectations of audience were, and how divorced from reality they might be.
What about you? Do you have an audience in mind while you write? What does it do for you? And do you ever picture what the real audience might say? If you've had something widely read, what was the reaction like and how was it different (or similar) to what you imagined?
I'm thinking that while I understand in an abstract sense what a really large audience will be like, it would probably be a rude awakening in reality. A bit of a chasm, perhaps, between those expectations and the actual experience of an audience of readers.