I have always written stories – one of the first had the memorable line ‘Gourds, take him away!‘ Before that I would tell stories to my sister, just as my parents told stories to me. Telling a story orally is different in many ways from writing one – obviously, and obviously I always knew that. However, for a long time, when I was writing ‘properly’ I would say or think that I was the important person in the this thing I was creating, I was who mattered because I was creating it… When I saw advice to writers about considering your readers I very arrogantly, stupidly and carelessly paid no attention to it. How I wrote and what I wrote was all down to me…
I can’t remember when or what made me suddenly realise how wrong I was… when I did fully realise I didn’t exactly blush with shame or embarrassment but I certainly;y took the realisation very much to heart.
If I think back to me telling stories I would pick up clues from whoever was listening to me whether my story was any good or whether it was just boring or silly. Did my sister wander off and play with something else, did she laugh at the wrong bits and then tease me about what I had said, did she just tell me to finish wittering on? I can’t remember but I guess all three!
Now I really try hard to distance myself from what I write and try to read/hear it as someone else might – my audience is really, really important and it’s something on my mind all the time as I write.
In my little book ‘So You Want To Write’, I mention this:
You have an idea for your story; the next thing to think about is…. your audience!
For a start, who are your readers? Adults, children, teachers, friends…? Be aware of them and how they may read your story and what they may read into your story… or perhaps not understand!
Your audience is not watching a play, film or TV programme. They only have your words there on the page. You have to give them all the information that they will need to understand, enjoy and want to read your story. So use lots of descriptive language.
They do not want to be baffled, bored or bemused.
Don’t think to yourself “I’m never going to share this with anyone else, or even show it to anyone; I am definitely not going to enter it for a competition, send it to an agent or a publisher so there is no audience…”
There is always an audience… even if it is an audience of one, yourself!
If you are writing a story just for yourself, when you read it back you want to be moved and feel some emotion from what your eyes are reading and sending to your brain.
If it’s a long descriptive piece, you don’t want those same eyes to glaze over and skate across the words, you want to be entranced and delighted by what you’ve written.
You are your audience; you might want to be moved, entertained, excited, engaged…
Your story might be for children, even if you never share it with any, your inner child will read it.
Here is a link to my book: