In the movie Twitches, which usually runs on Disney channel every Halloween, the sisters Alex and Camryn are told by their guardians, Ileana and Karsh, that the girls are from another dimension called Coventry and were sent to our world to hide until they were grown-up. They are completely skeptical and Alex calls the new dimension imaginary. Ileana patiently tries to explain to her “Oh, the universe has infinite dimensions. Well, 9 . . . maybe 9 and a half. But none is more real than another.”
The same is true of entertainment. There are, as I said in my last post, 22 different audience types—well, maybe 22 and a half! —and not one of them is more REAL than the others. Nor are any of them less worth writing about. Unlike the fantasy worlds Ileana and Karsh describe, there’s really no excuse to deny their reality even for a minute. They are not bizarre planes accessed through magic. They are simply groups of people who also inhabit the Earth with us. I’ve never felt that any of them are more important or deserve VIP attention. An attitude of “Well, the first thing I have to do is write such and such book to get my career off to a good start because it’s about the important people. Then the rest can follow.” This way of writing might appeal to someone who is simply self-aggrandizing—but not to someone who actually wants to tell a story. I have not prioritized one audience over another. I just write about whichever one comes next.
I wanted to write stories like the ones I grew up reading, books that had endured the test of time. But modern books are not put together like older fiction. It was common for older novels to contain multiple audiences within one work. They would shift back and forth in intricate subplots that entertained an entirely different audience from the main plot and often introduce a third and fourth angle (occupying almost the length of an entire novella) before cycling back. Modern fiction is linear and tailored, regardless of its word or page count. The majority of books describe only one audience, primarily a projection of the reader, and lack even a basic conflict within the story because conflict occurs when another person is introduced. At least 2 audiences are needed to create some type of tension. Books based on self-centeredness fall thin very quickly.
Other authors rise above this syndrome of excessive tailoring, but while their work is well-crafted, they usually address the same couple of audiences over and over. Readers have grown to expect that authors will write for only one audience or perhaps show two in symbiosis (a better approach) for their whole careers. But there is no rule that authors must always do this. As I analyzed my work more, I found that I had included many different audiences instead of sticking to an audience base of one or two. This stemmed from my original goal—to write stories that had a wide range of audiences. Two is the minimum to create necessary depth, but it’s also the maximum allowed in one book in modern fiction. So I adjusted by writing about a couple of audiences in each book and adding different audiences in later books until I’d covered almost all of them.
This means my readers have the option to head for the book in their audience bracket, tailored in a way they are accustomed to reading—while I still have the ability to show as many audiences as I want. Yes, I will exclude readers whose motive is an exhibition of neurotic self-absorption, because those books don’t constitute a real story! With a few books still to publish, I’m well on my way to achieving the goal I set for myself all those years ago—and to achieve it within the expectations of what a modern writer should do.
And there will be more updates.
Oh, how times have changed. When I started publishing 13 years ago, my hope was that each new book I presented was “the one”—the perfect book. The success. The book that sang and resonated with readers. I often discarded and unpublished them altogether or tried to rewrite and re-present them. But the new rewrites were doomed to the same failures as the first drafts and it was back to the drawing board. During this time people often encouraged me—italics are mine and intentional—by saying they were benevolent towards my work but couldn’t pay it any real attention. I should just keep writing and eventually, I’d produce a readable book.
But as the years went on and I turned out more and more books, I started to wonder if this “perfect” book really existed. It appeared to me that I’d never write it. The benevolent onlookers started to urge me to be realistic. After over a decade, I clearly wasn’t cut out to be a writer. I’d had chance after chance and failed every time. Then I remembered what I believed as a religious person, specifically a Christian—that nobody is perfect. It’s an error to even attempt such a standard. Perfection belongs to God only. Everything that I had been raised to believe said that people are actually irredeemably faulty without the help of God, the perfect deity. Not everyone today believes that, but it is what I believed.
I suddenly looked at my work through an entirely different lens. Why was I chasing perfection? Instead, I should examine the books for what they were. And I saw each book was actually a success. I’d become more analytical about audiences and found 22 core audience types that appeared consistently throughout every book and movie I saw. I never viewed myself as in the shadow of pop culture and desperately trying to get the attention of people who would rather plug in something audiovisual instead of reading. I loved books, which was why I wrote them. But I noticed that the exact same underlying audiences appear throughout any type of storytelling.
I also realized that my books held those same audiences inside them. In fact, now that I have 10 books + #11 (Celestine) to be published this year, I have included all but 3 of the audiences in my work! I was embarrassed I’d given up on these books so quickly. And I started to wonder about those benevolent onlookers throughout the years. They were merely rejecting each book because it did not contain them as an audience. The problem was not my failure to reach an audience, it was a failure to reach them. They apparently suffered from severe ego issues. To say a book written for you is “better” and shows the author finally has some talent directly implies books written for other audiences are inferior! 😊 That is so self-important it really merits a trip to a therapist.
Since you are following me because you are interested in one of my books, this doesn’t actually apply to you. You must be one of the 19—check it, 19!—types of people who find resonance with my work. (And I intend to address the remaining 3 audiences in future projects.) But I thought you might find this helpful if you’re ever feeling a need, an urge, to chase the unreasonable goal of perfection. Just back off from it and look closely at the work you've achieved. You’ll find that you’re doing just fine. Not perfect. But for a human being, you’re all that you can be.
And there will be more updates.
Last week I posted personal opinions about five of my books—in the midst of conversations about everything else, my thoughts on my own work had gotten a little lost in the crowd. The earlier post is immediately below this one and you can click on it if you want to hear about the first five books (The Birthday Present; A Year with the Harrisons; Facets of Fantasy; This Merry Summertime; and City of the Invaders.) Here's the next five:
And there will be more updates.
Author of Science Fiction, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Anthology Fiction
Always looking to better my craft.
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