Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Who is Your Audience?

Guest post by Robin Patchen

Ive heard plenty of authors say they write for themselves and for Godan audience of two. I do that myself. Ive filled journals with thoughts and prayers, written for myself, an offering to God. But my books? I dont write them for me.

I do have an audience for them, though. And its not some generic demographic. Its not some non-existent person between the ages of 20 and 60. No, my reader is more than that.

Shes in her mid-forties, a member of Generation X, and she probably couldnt tell you what that means. And maybe it means nothing. As a little girl, she wore orange-flowered pants and pulled her milk out of a gold refrigerator. Or maybe it was olive green. She watched Sesame Street and never missed Saturday morning cartoons. She got a perm in middle school, hated it, swore shed never do it again, and then got another one in high school. She wore great big bows in her hair to go along with her shoulder pads and chunky jewelry. She shampooed with PermaSoft or Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific, and then she covered that great scent with Aqua Net to keep her big hair in place.

She joined her family to enjoy the Huxtables every Thursday night. She remembers that chick from Weird Science asking viewers not to hate her because she was beautiful, and she remembers secretly wishing being beautiful enough to be hated.

She watched the nightly reports about the hostages in Iran and the images as they returned to American soil. The shocking moment when John Hinkleys bullet came within inches of altering the course of history was wedged forever as an image in her mind, as was the wedding of the century. Prince Charles and Diana, taught her that even ordinary girls can be princesses.

She thought Guns N Roses Sweet Child of Mine a stirring melody. Or maybe she couldnt be bothered with Water Pistols & Pansies and instead preferred the more sophisticated sound of U2. Either way, she knew all at the words to Toni Basils Hey, Mickey, and if she happens to hear it, she sings along every time.

She wore jeans from Sassoon and Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein. She owned a Members Only jacket, sported a bi-level at least once, and dated a guy with a MacGyver mullet. Business in the frontalways more party in the back.

Her parents, products of the 50s, were gloriously unaware of the world they raised their daughter in. About half of them stayed married to their first spouses, so its likely my reader was raised by a single mother and spent Wednesdays and every other weekend with her dad. Unlike her mother (she hoped), my reader did not wait until she was married to experiment with sex. In fact, she might not have waited until she was out of high school. She learned early on that so-called free love came at a great costmore than just pregnancy and disease. The emotional cost couldnt be undone with a procedure or a prescription.

Unlike Bill Clinton, she might have inhaled a time or two. She discovered alcohol young enough that it was still deliciously illegal, and the drugs and the alcohol, too, cost more than just her weekly allowance. Or maybe she was a good girl watching her friends make those choices, wishing her world were less complicated.

She was raised to believe she could have it allcareer, marriage, children. Her future was so bright, she needed Ray-Bans to look at it. She went to college, studied hard, and planned to achieve success in the form of a six-figure salary and a four-bedroom house.

Only it didnt turn out as shed planned. Not that it was badjust unexpected. She got a job and realized the workplace was nothing like Michael J. Fox made it look in The Secret of My Success. She met a guy and learned the hard way that marriage was nothing like they made it appear in The Cosby Show. And then she had children, and nothing had prepared her for that.
She rocked her babies and cried as she watched the towers fall on 9/11, wondering what kind of a world shed brought these children into. Along with the rest of the nation, she sang God Bless America and prayed and somehow went on in a world that was no longer sane.

Maybe she worked full time and raised her kids. Maybe she was blessed with a part-time job. Maybe she home schooled. No matter what, she was busier than her mother, than any woman in any generation before her. And she still is. Today, her favorite music is on the oldies station, and her kids sing along with her, because somehow, its cool again. If only big hair would come back into style, too.

Shes struggling with her teenagers while her parents have proceduresjoint replacements and heart surgeries and everything in between. Shes still married or long divorced, and either way, despite all the people in her life, sometimes shes lonely.

She remembers the choices from so many years ago, the boy with the bad haircut and the sweet talk. The partying and the fun that never really was. She thinks about those things that cost her so much and longs for the simple joy of floral-scented shampoo. She sometimes wishes she could do it differently. Yes, she lives with regrets. And then she sees the faces of the people she loves and realizes she, too, is loved. Shes not perfect, but she matters. Because it was never about perfection. It was about going for it. Trying and falling and standing up again.

The woman I write for is not a demographic or a statistic. Shes a real, living, breathing human being. 

She is my friend.

And yes, maybe, shes a lot like me.

Who are your readers?

What do you hope to say to them? How do you think your books will touch their lives?

Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, released in April, and its free prequel, Chasing Amanda, released in July. When Robin isnt writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robins Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website.


Ane Mulligan said...

Robin, this is one of the best posts I've read! You nailed your reader! And probably a majority of mine. And yes, I can see you in there. ;o) I'm sure your readership is wider than just that age, but what a way to nail it. Because those a decade or two older than her still remembers those things (okay, maybe not the lyrics to U2 songs) and those a decade younger will still relate, too. Good stuff!

Robin Patchen said...

Thanks, Ane. This is the only blog posts the Lord made me climb out of a warm bed to write in the middle of the night. Thanks for letting me share it on Novel Rocket.

Normandie Fischer said...

Love it, as always, Robin.

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Great post, Robin, and thanks for including me in your readership! 😍 I'll be 67 on Friday.

Allen Arnold said...

Incredible post. Your words capture the sights, sounds and personality of a different era. And yes - it pains me that the soundtrack of my youth is now labeled "oldies" or "classic"!
Authors who believe their story is for "everyone" miss the chance to write their story for someone specific. When authors know their readers, they know what elements of a story will stir their hearts and what actions of the protagonist will ring true. Something you illustrate so well here. Thanks for this important reminder and a fun walk down memory lane!

Robin Patchen said...

Jessy, I'm glad to have you as part of my readership. The more the merrier!

Linda Goodnight said...

Robin, this is a wonderful, gorgeous, touching post. There is so much wisdom mixed with the fun and nostalgia. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Robin Patchen said...

Thank you, Allen. I think you're right. When we try to write something that'll appeal to everyone, we end up writing something so bland, it appeals to nobody at all.

Robin Patchen said...

Thanks, Linda! I appreciate that.

Pegg Thomas said...

Beautifully written! You've defined your audience in such a personal way. I love it. (But I'm really glad we're past the whole "big hair" thing.)

Carrie Lynn Lewis said...

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote everything he wrote for his son. Whenever he faced a plotting decision, he'd stop and ask himself, "What would Chris like?" Look at the wide appeal of his novels.

It's difficult to do, but the best thing any writer can do is to find their "Chris". A real person or not, find someone you know so well that whenever you face a plotting decision, you can ask yourself, "What would so and so like?".

When you get to know that person well enough to answer correctly every time, then you're writing will take off.

Thank for the reminder, Robin. Great post.

Robin Patchen said...

Thanks, Carrie. Great point.

Pegg, big hair was awesome.

jericha kingston said...

You made me sigh, Robin--in a good way! I've been so nostalgic lately, probably because life seemed less stressful when I was young. Or either, the world was just as stressful then, but I was oblivious to it. Regardless, it's wonderful how you use your words to connect with us, your readers. Thanks for making me smile today.

Terri said...

Oh, I remember the big hair! Loved it. This is truly an insightful post. So real. Although I was more of an Urban Cowboy girl. :-)

You made your readership seem like living breathing people, which they are. Thanks for the reminder that's who we are writing for, not a sea of empty faces.

Sharon Srock said...

Robin, I hope Amber reads this because you just described her formative years. Me, I'm the oblivious parent from the 50's. As for my reader...I hope they are a lot like yours!!

Erin Taylor Young said...

SOOOO well done, Robin! I love how in touch you are with your reader, and how you know just what she thinks and feels in very specific ways. Just another reason why you write such GREAT books.

Connie Almony said...

Well THIS explains why I just became a fan of your books!!!!

Robin Patchen said...

Thank you all for your kind comments. Connie, that makes my day!

Susan Crawford said...

Wow, Robin, this is fantastic! Gives me a lot to think about in identifying my reader.

Really though, it's a wonder my brain still functions after inhaling all that Aqua Net. :-)

Gail Kittleson said...

Robin, I don't think I've read anyone else's picture of their readers. At least not this thorough- motivates me to look a little closer at mine. Thanks a lot.