Say Hello To Our Imaginary Friends

I did a speaking event this week which got me thinking about my days as a theater kid in high school. Back then I was taught to play to the back row, where folks wouldn’t be able to hear as well. One drama went so far as to walk us through imagining a particular audience member who’s hard of hearing, creating a backstory for the character. I’m wondering if any of you have an imaginary reader in mind while writing or promoting your books? Is that typical?
Paula: I have a friend I always think of my audience. I’ve known her for more than 30 years, and while she’s not a writer, she is a voracious reader across many genres. I know the kind of story she likes, the kind of reading experience that she most enjoys. I think of her as the personification of my ideal reader, so when I feel lost in a story (as I often do), I ask myself if I’d be boring Sandy about now. And what I need to do to keep her turning the pages. Susan: One of the most difficult things about teaching adults, which I do, is that if you are boring–even for a minute!–they are likely to take out their cell phone or just not come to the next class. So I often ask myself, as I’m writing, if my class would be interested in what I have to say. This has led me to tighten up a bunch of scenes and to add a jolts of humor, whenever possible. Tracee: I don’t have an imaginary reader in mind to the extent that Paula does. I think I’m more in line with Susan and her ‘audience’ i.e. the crowd that has other things to do if we lose their attention. This is certainly one of the hardest parts of editing (let’s face it, that’s when the real decision making comes in). I may be in love with a scene or a character but what will ‘the audience’ think. It’s always a tough call because ‘the audience’ is composed of millions of individual opinions who won’t agree 100% on anything. Cate: I picture my good friends reading it, my father, and my brother. If I can write something that satisfies all of them, I feel like it’s probably a good book. I also give it to them to read before it comes out. 🙂 Alison: This is a hard question for me because when I started writing, I didn’t think my story could possibly make people mad. By the time I finished Blessed be the Wicked, and now that I’m working on Born in the Covenant (current title of book #2), it’s pretty clear there will be certain conservative members of the LDS Church who will definitely not like my book. I talk about too many things that one is not supposed to talk about. Having said that, I have a lot of family and friends who are LDS (as I was myself). I had to come up with a way to create a nuanced depiction of a religion that is usually painted in terms of black or white. When I read the manuscript aloud to myself, I thought about the people I care about who are on the more conservative side. My standard was: Did I express myself honestly, but was also respectful to view points I may not share? I have no doubt there are places where I failed, but I did make every effort to be honest and considerate at the same time. I guess, when you boil it down, I tried to engage in civil discourse.  Alexia: I don’t think of a specific person when I’m writing. But I do imagine non-specific women reading Golden Age Mysteries while binge-watching Midsomer Murders. That’s my “target demographic”. A friend I’ve known since high school recently told me she’s turned her quilting society into a Gethsemane Brown fan club, so now I also picture quilters binge watching Midsomer Murders. Michele: I do not have an imaginary reader in mind when I am writing. Maybe I should, but what I constantly check for is my own boredom. If I am bored by what I am writing, it will most certainly bore any reader, assuming I can even interest one. How about you, dear reader? Do you have an imaginary reader in mind while you write? Come join us on Facebook to share your thoughts!  

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