Subject and audience – your audience and your main characters are sometimes very different

Sometimes, reader’s reactions to your stories are surprising. Particularly, I’ve had a couple of experiences when they assume things about my main character or the audience that doesn’t fit with my intentions or thoughts.

  1. The main character is a child, therefore the story must be for children.
    I wrote a story about a young boy who has a very bad time. It wasn’t meant to be a YA story but my readers to date have interpreted it as one. To me, a story isn’t for children just because it’s about them. I’m clearly missing some nuance of tone or subject that makes my stories about children also seem suitable for them. (I’m sending the flash version of Liz & Bob around to some YA publications to see if they agree with that judgement. It will be interesting to see what they say.)
  2. I’m female so my main character must be too.
    Quite a few of my stories are in the first person. I like writing in first person for a couple of reasons. It allows me to use an observational tone and means I don’t have to describe or explain the narrator too much. The first person also makes it easier for me to visualise the feelings and actions of the narrator. The voice puts not just the reader but also me as a writer inside the narrators’ head. Interestingly, this can cause confusion. Sometimes my narrator is male. If I don’t point that out clearly at the beginning of the story, readers assume that the narrator is female. Because I am.

The subject and the audience for fiction is as varied as the stories themselves. Your audience is not always someone like your main character, though. I’ve still to learn how to pitch my voice so that my readers know who the story is for.

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