M.D. Johnson is a poet, playwright, and author of the books "Serpentine Tongue" and "Food for the Soul."
How important is it? To what degree should you consider your audience when writing? I think it depends on what genre you are writing; however, I hardly believe all the great and notable writers considered their audience when deciding to write what they wrote. Most great writers write for themselves because they love writing. Would Edgar Allen Poe have even written the macabre and melancholy if he considered his audience, when most people prefer happy or enlightening stories (considering romances are the #1 best sellers and romance fans long for a happy ending)?
Write for Yourself First
Even Stephen King contends that you should first write for yourself, and then worry about the audience, stating the following:
“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”
Would we even have all the great literary works we have, if writers considered their audience, opposed to considering their muse, passion, obsession or curiosity? Stories simply don’t unfold in the audiences’ mind or from the reader’s perception or perspective, it’s up to the storyteller or writer to tell and write the story. And more often than not, as the writer is telling the story, the story takes on itself, so to speak. Actions, dialogue, storyline, etc. takes over, in the sense the writer is being told the story, once imagination has arisen fully. Of course, there are writers who create a structure and plot for their stories, working out all the mechanics beforehand, but they even find the plot and former structure of their story takes on a world of its own or deviates from the original during the writing process.
How You Should Consider Your Audience
Should the audience even be considered? It may depend on who your audience is. How many writers are crowd pleasers? Or do they consider their main character or heroine more often? I personally think a story should be a story, ethically sound, and meet the initial concept, idea or emotion the author wanted to project or convey. I think audience should be considered in all writing when it comes to the readability of your piece. Is it easy to read, visually, is the font clear and of a size and standard that is ergonomically appealing to the eyes of the audience? Does it flow well, is it confusing? If your main audiences are women, is it complex or descriptive enough to appeal to their senses and be relatable? The story itself is a whole other matter, however, and one of which an audience must receive or concede to, before accepting or rejecting the matter entirely, as everyone has a different state of mind and therefore likes different things.
When it comes to story writing and the significance of the audience, it’s to the likes of asking what came first, the chicken or the egg, and quite sensibly, -the story came first and then it drew an audience that absolutely loved it or abhorred it.
I think however, given the times or era, more and more authors are considering their audience beforehand, as soon as they come up with the concept of their book, to decide how best to write and market it. I think it should be up to the author personally on how much weight of his writing he or she will prescribe to their audience, it may result in higher sales margins, or the direct opposite. Maybe it’s best to find a happy medium, or merge the desire of the writer and their audiences expectations somewhere in the middle. I’ve even seen Kickstarter projects for writing books in which the writer includes the audience entirely, naming characters after their contributors and appealing to what they’d like to read. As long as the writer doesn’t lose his or herself, his or her ethics, passion and merit to appeal to their audience—why not?
Passell, Lauren. Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Inc. (2017). Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules For Writers. Retrieved March 8, 2017 from