On Facebook we recently asked the following question:
Kurt Vonnegut said, “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.” Do you write with a specific reader in mind?
Responses varied, as you would expect. Some people have one Ideal Reader always in mind. For others, the reader changes project-by-project. Meanwhile, some write only for themselves.
Here are some of the results:
Heather: Yeah, myself. But the hubster, too. He has a good eye for what works in a story and what doesn’t. Oh, and now my writing buddy. Hmm, so that’s three people.
Jonathan: I do. Who that reader is depends entirely on the project. Right now I’m writing something with my 14-year-old sister in mind.
Laura: Yes, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you.
Josephine: Meh… that worked for Kurt just fine, not so well for me. Then again it took me years to realize I was writing for someone who was neurotically jealous of my passion for writing and literature. Now unless in workshop mode, I write with my favorite authors in mind, they are all dead, but that’s okay.
Daniel: I do actually write for myself. If I am thinking of writing to please others, then it is less my story and more a thing manufactured to please someone else. No one is allowed to enter my thoughts when I write as they would, undoubtedly, pollute the waters.
Melissa: I write best with a specific reader in mind. It’s very difficult for me to write at all if I can’t imagine telling my story to an audience. The smaller the audience, the more focused my story.
Susan: I do NOT write to please any one person. I write to please myself and assume it will please everyone. Does that make me a narcissist?
Discussion question: Those of you who haven’t already, how would you answer the question above? As Daniel asks, does writing for someone else “pollute the waters?” Does writing for herself make Susan a narcissist?