Last week we talked about showing, not telling in your writing. This week I wanted to touch on who you’re writing for. I think more than the characters we write or the plot lines we develop we need to give our readers the attention that they deserve. They are the main reason that we do what we do as writers. We want to share our worlds with them. Unfortunately we put ourselves in an awkward position by not catering to the readers that we want to reach out to.
During my time at university, I was a part of a writing group that would critique and edit each other’s work. A lot of the time we would go over someone’s work of fiction and find issues with their projected audience. I was not immune to this very critique. I was trying to write a YA fiction piece, but I was not talking like a teenager would and I was using a lot of inappropriate language for my audience (mostly I was swearing and that is a huge no-no for a YA reading community). Apparently the rule of YA fiction is that you write your characters to be a few years older than the target age range you’d like to reach and that you bring the language down to their level. You can still make things more complex for them by making them think about your themes and you can slip in some bigger words here and there to increase their vocabulary, but you keep it simple and on their reading level.
A lot of the critiques were about the language we were using when we were writing. A couple of our members got critiqued for using language in their writing that was utterly too academic in nature than what was called for in the story. Our presiding professor over the group made a good point about this:
“Your reader is always going to know if you’re trying to hard. The writing won’t flow and it’ll seem insincere. It’s going to take your reader out of the story.”
And his advice is very true. I read Kemper Donovan’s The Decent Proposal a couple months ago and I still don’t know if I enjoyed the book or not – we won’t get into that right now. It’s basically another blog post for me, but I digress. As I was reading Donovan’s book I got thrown out of the story by a couple of his word choices. His word choices were very academic and did not fit into the narrative he was concocting. It made a bit more sense to me when I read his bio on his book cover – he’s a lawyer – as to why there were these bigger words in a simply written book. Now if Kemper Donovan had used these words while his female lead character spoke, it would have fit into the story better – the female lead is also a lawyer.
- Know who you’re writing for and write accordingly. YA fiction likes their characters older than them by a few years, for example.
- Watch your word usage. If you’re going to use big, fancy words then make sure that it fits your writing style or your character.
- Don’t just put big, fancy words in there – you might be using them wrong. Plus it takes your reader out of the story.
- Basically your readers are smart individuals that know when you’re pulling stuff out of your butt. Don’t insult their intelligence.
Until next week.