When you're doing any kind of entertainment-related work, you have to be aware of who your audience is, what they're thinking, and how to best play off of that. This is partly an issue of craft, but it also has a lot to do with the business side of art. You have to know who your customers are!
I think most writers are aware of their audience even from the start. Many probably aren't actively thinking about it while writing, but we tend to fit ourselves into a genre and category. Then, once we've finished writing and are moving forward into prepping for publication, the intended audience becomes a very important thing to consider. Genre and category really are the first and foremost things to be aware of, because those are the qualifications around which your book will be marketed and pitched. They impact the entire business part of your career.
Many big professionals in the field, however, recommend that you think in even more detail about your intended audience. You should create a profile for your reader: not just age and genre preference, but also gender, ethnicity, hometown, hobbies, lifestyle. Obviously, the great majority of your readers are not going to fit this exact profile, but it will help you focus in on what elements in your story you need to emphasize in order to optimize the read for that specific intended reader.
I never really thought much about this until one day in American Foundations last semester. We were discussing the American Revolution, and the professor explained how we have this bias against England because we're taught about the Revolution from childhood, as like a big deal with us gaining our freedom. In fact, England was one of the freest places in the world even as America separated.
He went on to mention, just as an aside, how in Star Wars, George Lucas made the members of the Empire primarily speak with British accents. He played off of the bias of his intended audience by associating the villains with England.
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.
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. The ending of the trilogy is as strong as it is precisely because it subverts our biases as a culture and as humankind both.
So I thought it would be interesting to point that out to my readers and to give with it the advice that yes, writers really do need to think about our intended audience and how we can play off of that in order to strengthen the effect of our work. Whether it's through accents, cultural references, or something else, we can make our books better by keeping our intended audience in mind.
Thanks for reading, and come back next time for our November humor post! NaNoWriMo arriveth!
Can you think of more examples in literature, TV, or movies in which the author played to the audience's expectations/biases?
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