Monday, 28 May 2012

Knowing Your Audience Is Key...

One of my chosen “mentor” authors is Rick Riordan. Love his brand, love his series, love the way he writes. He makes no bones about the fact that his Percy Jackson & The Olympians, The Kane Chronicles, and Heroes of Olympus series are written for kids. Yet adults love them just as much. Never mind the fact that he has written for adults too, but it’s his middle grade books that seem to have taken off and put him on the bestselling author map. This is the person I’d like to aspire to. Well, J.K. Rowling too, but that’s another post!

In one of Riordan’s blog posts, he writes:
“Some writers will say that they don’t have any audience in mind when they write. They write solely for themselves, or for posterity, or because they are driven internally to tell the story. That’s all fine and legitimate. But as a teacher, I always drove home one thing to my writing students: You must have a sense of audience. Who are you writing for? You can’t expect a business inquiry to be written the same as a letter to your friend. Nor should you expect a college physics textbook to be written the same way as a fairy tale book for elementary students. Audience, for this writer, is critically important. I would submit that it’s important to any writer. It’s a fundamental element of good communication. You should always be mindful and considerate of your audience.”

 So how does Riordan do this?

“I do this primarily by knowing my audience -- writing for them and to them. What does that mean? Writing with a strong plot, for one thing. Writing about characters that kids can relate to. Writing with humor and suspense to keep the pages turning. Writing as clearly as I can, so the sentence structure flows well when read aloud, and the prose becomes a smooth-running vehicle to deliver the story. And, like myths, my stories repeat familiar patterns – the hero’s quest, in particular.”

Riordan finds writing for kids much more challenging than he does for adults. Kids care about the characters. Imagine themselves in the settings. And always want something to happen. So when I sit down to plot, plan, and produce the first thing I think of is my audience. Then I ask, will this story work for kids? Not just for the book worms, but the reluctant readers too. And if I get a green light, then I’m off to the races!

12 comments:

  1. Rick Riordan is right, all authors must know their audience. Although I've never read his work, I admire you and Riordan with your talent and ability to write intriguing YA. It's awesome.

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    1. Sloane, you humble me! Thank you for your support and comments! Cheers!

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    1. Amaleen - it takes one to know one!

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  3. Excellent post! One mistake I see some authors make when writing for teens is "dumbing stuff down". We want to write in a way that's compelling and faster paced than general adult fiction, but the story and characters still have to have some meat to them. Stereotypes can be fun in small doses, but young adults know there is more to people than that. Know your readers, and respect them as well. Riordan and Rowling both do a good job at that and it's a big reason why they are so successful in my humble opinion. : )

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    1. Agreed, Alan, tweens and teens are way smarter than we give them credit for. If we as authors can hook their attention and keep them reading, our job is done! Kudos!

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  4. Riordan appeals for good reason, and I think you capture the heart of his allure here. I bought The Last Timekeepers, and I look forward to reading it this summer!

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    1. Thank you for supporting me, Ann! I hope you enjoy my debut and I appreciate you investing time in me! Cheers to you!

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  5. I do find myself wondering if my tales have the audience appeal of a Riordan, and I don't want to dumb down, but I wonder if some books push the line of YA--which I think is about where Stealing Time steps across a bit. Sharon, is The Last Timekeepers YA/middle school or more YA/older like Twilight series? Great Post, and yes, Rowling and Riordan: "R&R", I'd like to emulate them as well! :D

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    1. Hey, C.K., The Last Timekeepers is definitely middle-grade/YA as the kids start out at ages 10-14. Of course, like the Harry Potter series, they grow older and have tougher missions assigned to them. Thanks for stopping by to comment. Cheers!

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  6. Great post. I agree - you have to keep your audience in mind. If you're lucky, like Riordin and Rowling, you can also appeal to another audience.

    Good luck with The Last Timekeepers, Sharon.

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    1. Agreed, Eleni! If you shoot for the moon, you'll still end up among the stars! Thanks for stopping by!

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