One of the most important factors in terms of what makes a piece of writing “good” is the writer’s understanding of the nature of his or her audience. When you write, you construct not only an authorial persona, but you also construct an audience. The trick as a writer is to know for whom you are writing and what you are trying to convey. A cleverly constructed voice (i.e. tone, style, diction) can tell you something about the characters in a story or about the author of an article in a magazine. Is the speaker male of female? Is the character a modern-day person or is he living in another place in time? Is she angry, educated, mad, or of sound mind? In just a few words, you can give your reader a feeling for your voice.
As a writer, there are three important questions to consider when you begin to create a new piece of work, be it fiction, non-fiction, an essay, or even a letter to someone.
What do I want to say?
How do I want to say it?
Why do I want to say it?
Writing a first draft without a clear idea of the answers to these questions is fine. In fact, a draft can help you figure out the answers to these questions and help you focus on what you want to say. In turn, you will gain a better perspective on how you should define your voice and cater to your intended audience. If you are able to create a specific voice, it will help your audience to become engaged in what you have written for them. Your tone, word choice, or style, will construct your audience and signal: This piece of writing is intended for “X” (intellectuals, children, mature Christians, young adults, theologians, etc.) It is possible to convey the same message to two vastly different audiences if you are aware of your intended audience.
For instance, if you are writing a non-fiction, Christian book for new believers, remember to keep your tone simple—uncomplicated language which is free from jargon. This may be difficult when you have been a believer for many years. It will be difficult for you not to use “churchy” language which a new believer may not fully understand. You may take it for granted that not everyone knows what a “calling” is, what it means to be “broken,” or “anointed with a gift.” Also, keep in mind how important it is to respect your audience. Adults do not appreciate being spoken down to or scolded, even when they are being offered the “milk” of the Word. This will be something to consider throughout the writing process—you want to teach your audience without making them feel in any way inferior. Let’s face it, why would they choose to continue reading if they did?
Another important aspect to consider in your writing is how you choose to relate your story or share your ideas. If you begin in the first or third person, you must remember to keep within that parameter throughout. This may not always be convenient. Even well-known author, Herman Melville encountered this issue with the ending of his famous book, “Moby Dick.” The first version of the book was for an English audience. The story was told by the narrator, a character named Ishmael. Ishmael dies at the conclusion of the book, but somehow the story of his death is told to the reader after the narrator is gone. Melville was heavily criticized for this flaw. So much so, in fact, that he changed the ending of the story in the American edition so that Ishmael actually survived to conclude the story. Melville’s decision to change the outcome of the story truly demonstrates the power of an audience and the need to be attentive to them and their demands.
Understanding your audience will be key to turning out good, effective writing. The best you can do as a writer is to clearly imagine your audience and respect them by offering the best writing you can.
- Be attentive to your audience, and you will have them fully engaged in your piece.
- Remember to also be consistent throughout.
- Don’t insult your audience’s intelligence or think they will not notice, or mind, a flaw in your text.