Friday, July 15, 2011

Who do you write for?

(I’m going to be on vacation until next Thursday, so I am posting now before we leave. See you after a few days of tent and hot dog life.)

First, I won’t give away any spoilers, but let me just say that HP7P2 was fantastic! Everything I could have hoped for and more. Not only was it a great film adaptation, but it made me want to go back and read book 7 again, just to re-experience some things. I’m also curious if the movie actually didn’t a better job of clarifying a few points. This is one I will absolutely see in theaters again. And can I also say what a kick I get out of midnight showings? It reminds me of how we used to go out at midnight to buy the new HP book as a family and then spend the next four or five days reading together every spare minute. Good times!

Second, maybe it’s just me, but I laughed my head off at this article on the most awkward place editors and agents have received pitches. The hotel one would have completely freaked me out!

And now with appetizers and salad out of the way, let’s jump to the main course. (Can you tell it’s lunch time, and I have food on the brain?)

Today I thought I’d tackle a question that gets brought up at a lot of author panels. Who do you write for, yourself or your readers?

I’d love to be able to say that I lock myself in a dark office (but not too dark or I couldn’t see the keyboard) and write purely for myself. It sounds so cool. So noble. And I absolutely believe that lots of people do write for themselves. I’m just not one of them.

When I write, it’s all about the readers. If I write a funny scene, I’m thinking about how it will make them laugh. When I write action scenes, I’m intentionally trying to elicit an “Oh my gosh!” or two. When I reach the aha moment, it’s all about having the reader put down the book just before the big reveal and go, “Aha, I know who did it.”

As a kid, I used to tell stories. Have you ever seen the movie, “Stand by Me,” where a group of boys goes in search of a the body of a missing boy? Remember the scene where the main character tells the story about the pie eating contest while the boys are sitting around the campfire?

That was totally me. Except the stories I made up were usually action adventure—albeit often kind of silly adventures with titles like, “Captain Weenie and the Little Purple Man.”

The whole goal of my stories was to keep the audience amazed and glued to the story. When I got done, the best thing I could hear was, “Tell us another one!”

That’s still how I feel about writing. I could write without getting paid for it. I could write without getting published. I could write even if my sole readership was a half dozen friends. But I would have a really, really hard time writing if I was the only person who would ever read my story.

How about you? Who do you write for?


Donna K. Weaver said...

Well, gosh. Until I finished your post I thought I was writing for myself. And I am. But you're right. There is an element of wanting the readers to laugh where I laugh or cry where I cry or have a racing heart where I want it to be suspenseful. So I guess I'm not writing for myself. But that's not being dishonorable is it?

David Glenn said...

I'm not sure who I write for. All I know is that I write to share a good story with people.

Erin G. said...

I think I write mostly for myself. This past year I almost completely stopped writing because I got so frozen with fear that my work was crappy and no one would like it. So when I write now I try not to worry about who may or may not see it and write a great story for myself. I think there's a time for me to think about others (like revisions), but definitely not in the first draft.

Amber Argyle, author said...

I write for the money.

But really, I write mostly for myself at this point. We'll see if that changes.

Mark said...

Sorry Jeff, I gotta say I write for myself. O.K. I write for myself first, then I think about it and add stuff so other people will know what I'm talking about. Then I go back and fix stuff that even I don't understand, and then... well, you get the idea. But on this subject I just heard a great quote.

"Why is it that the words we write for ourselves are always so much better than the words we write for others?" - Finding Forester

J Scott Savage said...

Heading up to the mountains, but I just wanted to say that I absolutely don't think that one way is any better than the other. (Although writing for the money did make me laugh!)

It's like outlining or not outlining. Whatever works best for you is the way to go. Fun to hear everyone's thoughts.

Nicole Pyles said...

If I really thought about it, I think I write for my character. Or if it's nonfiction, I write for the voice leading the story. I have learned that when I am at my most successful, the character leads the story. I may draw them a map (i.e. outline), but then, I get in the passenger seat and let them drive. When I'm at my worst, they are stubborn and refuse to drive. They give all sorts of excuses to me about why they won't drive. I can do the driving and usually I end up in the ditch. We get into an argument and both of us storm off mad. So, I need the character to do the driving (and sometimes even when they are driving, they are just plain bad drivers...)

So, metaphor-aside (I know, I got carried away...), I do write for my character. The character needs to have a strong voice, even if its mirrored after me in some way. If not, I feel lost! :)

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