how are you doing it?
There was a lively Twitter discussion last night (my time). In the middle of it Nicola Morgan said that she tried to write books readers want - that her mantra was to write more for readers than herself. Fair enough. It is one way of getting books published and, hopefully, sold in sufficient quantities to go on being published. I logged off for the night thinking about this.
It seems to me though that a writer is a bit like an actor. They both have to get the story across. While all of them will involve some awareness of audience (readers) surely an actor can go about this in many ways?
Certainly they can act a part to the audience. They can be, as Nicola seems to be, highly conscious of their audience/readers. This obviously has to work sometimes. It must work particularly well for writers of series. The crime writer Sue Grafton started off with A for Alibi, then B for Burglar. I think she has reached the letter U and plans to go to Z. She is contracted to do this. Her readers know her characters. They know what to expect. She is undoubtedly writing to her audience. Trying to pull off major changes simply would not work. She may kill the characters in Z but doing it before then will be a mistake. (Patricia Cornwell tried this and, in my view, it did not work.)
Ian Rankin, a much better writer, could pull off surprises with Rebus because his main character was much more complex but even he must have felt constrained by audience expectations.
Then there is the writer who writes with the audience always in mind. They are conscious of the existence of the audience. It can still, especially when writing for younger readers, make for good writing. There are obvious things you do not write into a book for children. You can also write what you know children want to read - write to them as an audience.
JKRowling obviously knew what children wanted when she introduced Harry Potter to the world. The curious thing about that however is that the adult minders in the audience were apparently not able to recognise what was happening on the stage. The books might never have been published had it not been for the child of one of the Directors of Bloomsbury asking to read more. That seems unbelievable now. Nevertheless Rowling is writing to an audience. She knows they are there and she has been able to use them.
But it seems to me that there is yet another approach. There is the actor who goes deeply inside the part, so deeply inside they almost become the part for a limited time. There is still a thread there to the audience. The thread will be as thin as a spider web but, as spider webs are, remarkably strong. too. It is, for me, the most powerful sort of acting there is - acting which binds the audience to the actor.
And it seems to me that there is writing like that too. There is the author with the story to tell. The author goes so deeply inside the story that it becomes part of them while they write it. The story is not one the reader merely wants to hear. It is one they need to hear and cannot be without. Those have, for me, to be the stories which last.