Writers Cure

I'm currently reading Les Edgerton's Finding Your Voice (expect a review soon) and came across one of those little creative accidents. In the beginning he talks about syntax and refers to Melville's Moby Dick. He points out that in Melville's time much of his audience didn't know a lick about whales, so a book jam packed with info about them would be interesting to the people of that time period. With the advent of the Discovery channel and idiots that climb into shark cages with cameras, the current marketplace would be rather disinterested in a story filled with whale mating habits (cue porn music: bow chicky wow wow).

That got me to thinking about audience. Today's audience would want that same Moby Dick story jam packed with excitement and adventure. Life threatening peril at every turn of the page. And why is that? Because we live fairly safe and mundane lives.

This is not to say that everyone is looking for same thing. Some people live in loveless marriages, or comfortable ones where steamy romance is a thing of the past. Others find that their jobs and day to day activities lack a certain heartfelt emotion or bond with a good friend every Tuesday.

Of course there are sub-genres within those audience groups. Some more erotic, others more fantastical. The question is, who is your market? And more importantly, what is missing in the lives of those people?

In copywriting there is the concept of the great elixir. Few things sell better than those that promise to cure a problem. Not even protection sells as well as elixirs. How many people do you know run out and get a house alarm after they've been robbed. We're a country looking for cures, not preventions.

That led me to think: what cure is today's reader looking for? In every case it's escapism of one form or another. Heck, even Moby Dick is escapism. But what specific things are your readers looking to escape from?

Now, I know that there are a lot of fluffy bunnies out there that would rage against the notion of doing research before writing a book. They can't stand the idea of outside pressures impacting their artistic process. Fine by me. Don't sell a book. See if I care. Makes more room for me to slip in there. But if you do want to sell a book you're going to keep this in mind.

I also know that this topic has been talked about by many others many times before, “know your audience,” is a common how to theme. But that's not what I'm asking you to do. I'm asking you to figure out what your audience needs to be cured of? What is their sickness, their affliction? And then tackle it from that point of view.

Are they an angsty teenager with low self-esteem who really just wants a knight (read: stalkerish vampire) in to die for clothing to come and literally sweep them off of their feet while still respecting their desire to take things slow? Maybe they're a bit younger, a bit nerdier, other kids pick on them, but if only they could reveal to the world that greatness they hold inside that not even they are aware of, then they'd show them. Or, perhaps they're all grown up. They work in a dead end job, are about to be married to a loveless prude, and would love to have an excuse to go on a real adventure. Maybe a girl shows up, one who can open doors that lead to an underground world that this person always knew had to be there, filled with assassins, hunters, and crazed Angels.

So I guess, in all my rambling, I've redefined the question. It's not, “what is the cure?” The cure is escapism. The real question is, “what is your reader trying to escape from?” But look at it in terms of a cure. You're not simply writing a story, you're writing a cure.

I can actually point out where the last photo came from, and that's Head Trip comics, a web comic where the art is fantastic. Check it!


golddust3681 said...

okay, first if I can just calm down the giant smile at what I perceived as a dig at "Twilight" (thank Jeebus), this made me think and question myself a little. In my blog writing, I don't really have any target audience. I guess I'm just trying to cure people (and myself) of boredom. But in my other writings, my cure is for loneliness. One of the reasons that I'm addicted to Joss Whedon's work (read..."huge buffy geek"), is that he writes characters with such depth and that are unique but also have a general "that could be me" quality that makes you feel less alone, somehow. You start envisioning theses characters as real people that you could be friends with and you invite them into your heart and television (or just mind, for stories rather than screenplays) and it cures you of that alone feeling. I try to recreate that in my own "jesi" way.

David Noceti said...

What? Me? A dig at Twilight? Noooooo. Surely not.

I'd also say that I enjoy commiserating with you through your blog. That post about Brighthouse sorta put you in the role of hero in my own battles with corporate idiocy, finance charges, hook up fees, and "we screwed up but are going to blame you because it makes us more money" sort of bull. I still think you should reenact the return of your gear to the offices and take a picture for that post. Just grab some random stuff and bring it to them. It'll be great.

Amber J. Gardner said...

I don't mind the Twilight jokes, but Harry Potter may spark the protectiveness in me ;)

I've tried to picture my audience, but it always comes down to someone like me. Someone who likes fantasy stories, role playing games, and most likely anime/manga. Between the ages 13-23 probably and an appeal to both sexes...more to guys though.

But what am I trying to cure?

Hmmm... The lack of well-written, strong female leads in fantasy in the world? Nah, that lack is already becoming less and less. I think I'm offering hope in my stories. Hope that when all goes dark and everything looks bleak, it'll all turn out alright in the end. Does that work?

Oh, also I'm also reading Finding Your Voice! I'm halfway through it and really like it. Totally useful information! I hope you find it helpful too.

David Noceti said...

I'll be mindful to steer clear of that then. ;)

I guess that my biggest problem is that I don't see myself as a part of any crowd. I'm in some strange subset. A guy who writes and chops wood, who can sketch and build a garage. I love comics but have never been to comic con. I read but not often enough. I think that for most writers just writing for themselves is well enough, I just worry when I do it because I know that I'm an odd duck. Then again, maybe I'm not as odd as I think.

Or maybe it's just that there are more oddballs out there than I think. :)

Amber J. Gardner said...

I've never been to a comic con either and I think I've read a little over a dozen books in my lifetime, most of that a decade ago. I can sketch...but not very well. I often feel out of place in this scene as well simply due to my lack of skill (you totally beat me with the garage building skill...as well as the great blogging and attaining writing partners/friends skill. I'm making this sound like a roleplaying character sheet. How geeky of me lol).

There's probably a whole population of oddballs out there. The problem with oddballs is that we tend to think we're the only ones out there.

What are your stories like, btw? I've been curious for a while now.

S.F. Robertson said...

Good post.

You're not as much of an odd duck as you think you are, babe. And while I agree that generally you need to know who you're writing for, I firm believer that audiences find books. As long as you write a great story that's fresh and new someone will read it.
As you've told me on numerous occasions, if my book ever ends up on shelves, it will be in the teen section, but that doesn't mean only teens will read it. With my luck, I'll have a following of creepy middle-aged men...

Post a Comment