A Lesson For A Newbie Writer: The Audience Principle
Whether fiction or non-fiction, your reader is always important and the question – of how to create a real interest in your reader – is always in your head. The importance of the audience or reader in the case of writing cannot be stressed less which is why consideration of the audience is one big principle of good writing. If you are a new writer or an enthusiast who wants to explore the field of writing, here are two strategies from my pack of lessons that would help you practice this principle.
Strategy 1: You As You VS You As Reader
New writers often struggle to think about how they should write to ensure that the output appeals to the reader. The solution to this problem is simple- think like the reader. “Easier said than done”, said the girl I was tutoring on writing skills a few days ago. I asked her to pick a topic so I could give her a demonstration of how one can get into the mind of a reader and then, come up with ideas that are appealing enough to retain readers’ attention.
She picked a not-so-interesting topic, or at least looked that way to me – A teaching from a sage “The happiness you get from procuring materialistic things like a big house, a big car, or the latest laptop, is not the real happiness, but only a sense of satisfaction that would eventually fade away so he suggested humans to refrain from chasing materialistic dreams or run after one’s materialist desire”.
I asked her to think about the reader and pick up an example that could make this concept easy to understand and open up the mind of the reader to accept a boring concept like this. She came up with an idea of a car that a person could be owning. Despite having a car, a person would desire to have a bigger car and would not be satisfied with the small one. Then, I asked her why she thinks this idea would give a revelation to the reader. She wondered and gave some justification.
Then, I asked her to tell me who her target reader was. Her target readers were young people between the age group of 20-25. I asked her if the idea of letting go of desire would appeal to a person who is perhaps studying in a college or just starting his or her career. It would not!
I asked her to think about something that youngsters love and she said, “Ice cream”. I asked her to go on by connecting her idea with the idea of the ice cream. This lead her to a theory that said, ‘No matter how satisfying and amazing a student would feel when eating one ice cream scoop, by the time, the person would finish the ice cream, an offer of a second ice cream may not be appealing”.
Despite loving ice cream, no one would keep eating, one, two, or three…ice-creams. Material desires die after saturation and you start feeling bored because the feeling no more remains amazing after a few experiences.
What if there was something you desired which could always make you feel good, no matter how long you consume it?
She came up with the idea of an experience like meditation. If instead of desiring ice cream or big money in life, what if one desires peace and gets it through meditation? Will it survive the tides of repetition and still not bore you? She was excited as the exercise made her feel more creative and then she asked how she could do it when I am not there to guide her and that was when I threw my theory of “You as you and you as a reader’ at her.
At first, she was thinking like a consumer or reader herself and she was giving ideas that related to her, a 35 years old working lady who could afford a car but then I asked her to stop thinking about herself and disconnect from own self. Instead, I asked to try becoming a girl who existed inside her some 10 years back. What did she love most then? Now the idea of ice cream sounded more appropriate. As a writer, you need to stop being you and start being your reader. Unless you become your reader in your head, you would not be able to enter the mind of the reader and would never discover what the reader really wants. This idea of moving from You as you to you as a reader is not easy but is the trick to get you where you want to be as a writer.
Strategy 2: Going Deep
Her next exercise was obvious – write a paragraph explaining the example and she did. Her word, however, did not even appeal to me, how would they appeal to a reader? She was stuck again. She had a brilliant idea to play with but she did not know how to play with words to make the idea look like a superstar. I told her that she didn’t need to play with words yet because she had not yet finished her job of playing with ideas.
“But I have the idea clear in my head.” she had said.
Then I threw the next theory of deep thinking at her. I told her that you need to first focus on what is that you want to achieve by writing.
I asked her what she wants her reader to do – buy the idea, like the idea, change mindset and she chose the preposition of changing mindset. Changing mindset is not so easy. For that to happen, just going into a reader’s mind would not be enough, and you would need to go deeper into it. She asked me how she could do that. It sounded difficult.
Imagine a house where you are invited as a guest. You want to make friends with the host. What would be your first step? I asked her the question and she said that her first step would be to talk to them nicely and perhaps appreciate them. I told her that she gave the wrong answer and she was baffled. She tried some more answers but all failed. Then she asked me what was the real answer and I said, “You ring the bell and enter the house”. Was it not simple?
This is exactly what you need to do as a writer. Taking forward the example of ice cream. I told her to start this way – Ask the reader to think of his or her favorite ice cream (ring the bell) and then imagine eating it. I asked my student to close her eyes and tell me how she felt if she was eating the ice cream herself. She then described the feeling with words like melting, cold, sweet, reaching my soul, giving me pleasure…. And then was a description ready.
This description did not speak anything about materialistic pleasure or its flaws but only brought back the feeling of pleasure and that was when the writer went deeper into the mind of the reader (enter the house). The reader now opens up to go on reading because now you have not just got the attention but also created an appeal.
At this point, forget that you actually need to take the reader away from this enjoyment of pleasure. Just make the person feel pleasure. At this point, the reader would feel a connection with the senses, with one subconscious and that is when the programming inside the mind would be exposed and the person would be open to making a change in the mindset. Take the reader deep into the experience and then to the point where the experience is no more pleasure. That is when the iron is hot and you create a bang with your real idea coming up.
Hope these ideas help you as a writer. Do give comments if you have any questions.