When you're doing any kind of media-related work, you have to be aware of who your audience is and how to best play off of their way of thinking. 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 novelists are aware of their audience from the start. Many aren't actively thinking about it while writing, but we tend to fit ourselves into a genre and category. Then, when we've finished writing and are editing and prepping for publication, the intended audience becomes a key consideration. Genre and category are where you start because those are the qualifications around which your book will be marketed. However, many big professionals in the field recommend that you think in even more detail about your intended audience. They recommend creating create a profile for your reader: not just their age and genre preference, but also gender, ethnicity, hometown, hobbies, and lifestyle. Obviously, most of your readers won't fit this exact profile, but it will help you focus in on what elements in your story you need to emphasize to optimize the read for that specific intended reader.
I hadn't honestly thought much about this until one American Foundations class last semester. We were discussing the American Revolution, and the professor explained how U.S. natives have this bias against England because we're taught about the Revolution from childhood as this huge success where we gained our freedom. In fact, he said, England was one of the freest places in the world at that time. As an aside, he pointed out 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 antagonistic group with England.
That caught my attention, and it made me think more about how writers include, consciously or unconsciously, ideas that fit 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 antagonists. For British TV, I've noticed a bit of an anti-Irish bias, which is interesting as well. This, of course, is conducive to racism, so you need to really watch yourself. Promoting unfair bias is not okay.
One book example that stands out for me when it comes to making use of your audience's expectations is The Hunt trilogy by Andrew Fukama. The ending is as strong as it is because it subverts our biases as a Judeochristian culture and as human beings. (I won't get more specific because spoilers.)
I don't know how much I've done this with my own novels in the past. Changing up common tropes for your genre is one oft-used way to make use of your audience's expectations, but I'll admit to being more a rule follower than a rule breaker. 😬 The closest thing I've probably done is playing with the line between fantasy and sci-fi. Still, it's a good consideration to take to mind when writing. I'm definitely going to do so in the future!
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