Taking audience into consideration is an aspect of writing I hadn’t given much thought to. In fact, one might even call it a novel idea (first and last pun, I promise.) But when I sat down to think about how audience shapes what I write, or, more aptly, how I write, I realized that it is probably the most underrated force in my writing out there for this simple reason: everything I write is for someone.
Maybe it’s a weakness that I can’t just write purely for myself, maybe I should be able write without a specific reader in mind. Or maybe it’s a strength that I can adapt my writing to suit the audience at hand. But it’s true– everything I write has an intended audience in mind. When writing a close reading paper for my Honors professors I adapt a scholarly, methodical voice and use as many 3 point vocabulary words as I can without sounding pretentious. When I write an email to my Grandma my writing is newsy, upbeat. When I write a caption on Instagram I usually settle on something that appeals to the broadest common denominator– something that would entertain both my aunt and my distant sophomore acquaintance from high school. Even when I journal, at some point I realize I’m really just writing to God.
Not gonna lie it both disturbs and fascinates me that my writing can be so chameleonic. Does it mean I don’t have a “true” voice and all I am really doing is imitating different styles of writing to suit the occasion? I don’t know. It seems like the ability to adapt is necessary to be a well rounded writer, though. I can’t imagine turning in an analysis essay using the same linguistic style as, say, this blog post.
Is it even necessary to consider your audience when writing fiction? Well, unless you believe a children’s book with a murder scene will get published, then yeah, I’d say you have to have an idea of who you’re writing for in the back of your mind. How you choose to write to that audience, I am learning, is infinitely nuanced and can be manipulated by your use of things as tiny as demonstratives and articles. (See Walter J. Ong’s The Audience is Always Fiction). And that’s about as far as my thought process has gone regarding audience. Consider audience considered.