This week's guest post is by Charley Robson, from The Leaning Tower of Plot. I hope you all enjoy her awesome work!!!
Writing for your Audience
If J.K. Rowling ever won some fictional writing-based Oscars, I like to think she’d open her speech with “I’d like to thank my mum, my cat, and my readership”.
As far as planning a book goes, knowing who you write for is right up there with all the fundamentals: perspective, length, ratio of ninjas to pirates. Your audience will affect not only what you write, but how you write it. I know I’d have a hard time marketing my twisted, psychological dystopian to a group of five-to-seven year olds – they’d never sit through all that boring dialogue, and would probably get all the characters’ names mixed up.
But how do you know who you write for? And, if you’re not sure, how can you work out an appropriate age range for your book?
I’m going to use a shameless bit of self-promotion here: this year, my lovely co-author and I wrote a mystery story, set in a girl’s boarding school. We called it St Mallory’s Forever! and the title features a bright bold font, a lacrosse stick, and a school kilt whose pattern sends my brain whizzing off down Nostalgia Avenue faster than you can say “prep time”.
Officially, we haven’t decided on an age range for the book, but to me, the target audience is kids who are just starting secondary school. As all of our narrators are girls, and the setting is almost exclusively female, I think it is also safe to assume that most of our readers – parents and enthusiastic friends aside – will also be female.
We’ve also kept the tone of the book fairly light-hearted, with plenty of hi-jinx and mischief and fun pop-culture references – more St Trinians than Sherlock Holmes in the mystery style. So, it would probably be suitable for slightly younger readers too.
From this, I can guess that our target audience is mostly female, from the ages of about 10 upwards. I can’t put a top limit on it – it’s hard to do that on any book that isn’t The Very Hungry Caterpillar – but that’s not really necessary. All I need to know is, write it as if my ten year old cousin were to read it. This means quick pace, maximum action, and plenty of entertainment value. Oh, and no murder, drugs or hacking into MI6.
However, as important as checking out your target audience is, it’s not the end of the world. I’m pretty sure Tolkein didn’t expect enthusiastic fourteen-year-olds to be curled up under their beds reading The Silmarillion, and Cornelia Funke would probably laugh herself into stitches if she knew that the seventeen-year-old Oxford hopeful still keeps a very battered copy of Dragon Rider and The Thief Lord on her shelf.
Those examples are completely random and not anecdotal in any way, just so you know.
That’s the joy of books, you see. It doesn’t matter how old you are – what matters is what you find in them. Sure, if you’re writing a kids’ book you may want to avoid adding that scene where the cat decorates the doorstep with fifteen dead blackbirds. Unless that was the point of your story, of course – in which case I want to know what sort of sugar you put in your cereal this morning, and can I have some?
So, to finish, here’s my list of things that will help you pick out the target audience for your burgeoning literary masterpiece. Bearing in mind that these are my personal selections, and depending on the type of book you’re writing they may vary in degrees of importance or relevance.
1 – Length.
2 – Plot complexity.
3 – Age of the protagonists.
4 – Possibly wobbly content (coarse language, “mature” content, things that might upset your granny over her tea and biscuits).
5 – Content of characters’ jokes and references (I know I’d certainly be left rather confused by jokes referring to figures who died before I was out of nappies).
Thanks very much for reading – and special thanks to our lovely host for letting me come by and bother you all with my waffling. Happy writing!
~ Charley R
Charley R is a young author from the UK. Her first co-authored novel, St Mallory's Forever! is due to be published sometime in the near future by Mark Williams International. When not buried deep within the recesses of her favourite books, Charley likes to entertain herself by acting, hiking, attempting poetry, and perfecting the art of procrastination. She is also an avid fan of all things Doctor Who, Star Trek, The Avengers or Tolkein related, and may or may not be a professional troll hunter in her spare time. Charley's misadventures - as well as almost everything else - can be found on her blog: The Leaning Tower of Plot.