Ever have one of those moments when you realize that you’re about to know something you don’t know yet? The Buddhists call it approaching a gateless gate; with my nerderiffic background, I tend to think of it as preparing to level.
I’m preparing to level.
I’ve been thinking, off and on, a lot about audience. Some things that I write, I just have to write. Whether or not anyone else likes it is secondary; I hope other people like this stuff, but it’ll probably be by chance.
But, from a business perspective, who do I want to be my audience? In general? Do I want to carve out a niche, or do I want to spread out all over the place? I can alter my strategy through the creative use of pen names, but what do I want?
And then there’s the “what do I want to write” perspective, because what you write is intimately tied to your audience. Do I want to write a genre? Kids, adults, or both? What ages of kids? Again, focus on a genre? What about length? Short stories or novels?
What do I want to do to my audience? Make them laugh? Cry? Wrap them around an axle? Encourage them to grind their axes? Take them away for a while? Make them remember what it was like to fall in love?
What if I want to do all of this higgledy-piggledy, and not plan any of it ahead, taking life as it comes?
When I think about audience (which is, essentially, thinking about career) in general, I find a lot of dead ends, a lot of unsatisfying answers.
What kind of writer am I?
Well, I’m funny (sometimes); I like to pull reversals; I like to include metafiction but so much that the story’s pointless; I adore transformations, the tests of true love (and its strange varieties, like the love of adventure), and characters who do things that aren’t necessarily the best things they could do. I love to scare myself, to make myself tear up, to snigger.
What kind of writer could I be?
I used to be a poet, so I could be a more poetic writer; I passionately admire books and writers that include both joy and tragedy but end up on the side of joy; I chase down stories that explore love and sex from the perspective that the ending is romantic but doesn’t look like a romance novel (for example, tragic endings); I love hearing ghost stories; I love sifting through the current news to find the what-ifs ahead.
I used to have the ambition to be a Shakespearean writer, as opposed to a specialist. Tragedies, comedies, histories, all containing the basic, opposite truths about life: Love is transcendent; love is petty. Revenge possesses you; revenge is nothing. “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
That’s been lost lately. I’ve been doing the next thing that comes along, without thought to it. And there’s value in that; I find out things I could never come up with consciously. But I think I’m going to find out something soon about what kind of writer I am. My “writer’s voice”? My perfect audience? (Not that I’ll know how to please them, not right away.)
When I was a child, I wanted to be everything. A singer, a dancer, a nun, a doctor, a mother of fourteen, a princess with a killer wardrobe, someone whose every dream came (literally) true (my alter ego super power name was going to be… “Dreama”). Then I found out I wanted to be a writer. (Thank you, Mrs. Sanderson.)
Now, I feel like that’s narrowing down somehow. I don’t know how, but I feel it.
What about you? What kind of writer are you?