Obviously, from the get-go, writers are aware of their audience. Many probably aren't thinking actively about it while writing, but there's still that concept of genre and age group even then. Once the writer has finished the original writing and is moving forward into prepping for publication, the intended audience becomes a very important thing to consider. Age group and genre are the first and foremost things to be aware of, because those are the qualifications around which your book will be marketed and pitched, and they affect your agenting, publication, and selling to a great extent. I wrote a post earlier on genres for anyone needing some clarification there.
Many big professionals in the field, however, recommend that you think in even more detail about your intended audience. Create a profile for your exact intended reader, for example - not just age and genre preference, but also gender, ethnicity, hometown, hobbies, lifestyle. Obviously, the great majority of your readers are not going to be this exact profile, but it can help you focus in on what elements in your story you need to expand on and emphasize in order to optimize the read for that specific intended reader.
I'd never really thought much about this, however, I must admit, until one day in American Foundations last semester. We were discussing the American Revolution, because America, and Brother Lewis explained how we all have this bias against England because we're taught about this from childhood as like a big deal with us gaining our freedom, and in fact, England was one of the freest places in the world even as America separated and expanded on that base of freedom.
That, to me, was a really interesting thought, and it made me think more about how writers include, unconsciously or intentionally, biases and ideas that fit in with their intended audience's viewpoints. Since then I've paid more attention to how TV and movies present villains, and often, for American TV, you see British, Russian, or occasionally Middle Eastern accenting. For British TV, I've noticed a bit of an anti-Irish bias, which is kind of interesting as well. This, of course, is conducive to issues of racism and diversity, so you'll want to really watch yourself with this. Promoting unfair bias IS NOT okay.
But in thinking about this, I also thought about how books would play with the audience's biases, and one that really stood out for me was THE TRAP trilogy by Andrew Fukama. Not giving anything away, the ending of the trilogy is as strong as it is precisely because it subverts our biases as a culture and as humankind both, and the fact that he played off of that is fantastic.
So, it's really just a side note, but I thought it would be interesting to point that out to you all as well, and to give with it the advice that yes, as writers, we need to think more strongly and specifically about our intended audience and how we can play off of that in order to strengthen the effect of our work. Whether it's by accents, cultural references, or other related thoughts, we can make our books better by keeping our intended audience strong in our mind.
Can you think of more examples in literature, TV, or movies in which the author played to the audience's expectations/biases?
Images via wqxr.org and allposters.com.br.