Consider The Audience

theReader (photographed in Tiflis, Georgia)

It helps to picture an ideal audience as you write your memoir. We all do this, unconsciously if not consciously. So make the effort conscious. Write for an individual, either a person in your family or an imagined reader – one with the characteristics you would wish an intelligent reader to have.

What does this person like to do with his or her time? If imagined reader does not like to read, you will write differently than if he is an avid reader. You also will write differently if the person is a child.

What does your reader think is appropriate behavior with strangers? This may seem like an odd question, but it can lead you to some interesting insights about how your reader views contemporary culture and how wistful your reader might be for another time and place. If your reader is a 14-year-old boy who can barely give adults who are strangers any attention at all, you will have to be commanding and compelling writing about a different time and place and find ways to appeal to a limited experience.

If your reader treats strangers with cold civility you will want to find ways to get them warmed up to your narrative, perhaps by using descriptive language that puts them in the moment you are writing about.

If your reader is warm and inviting to strangers, you may have an easier time capturing this person’s attention. At least you can assume this type of reader will have a natural interest in other times and places.

These generalizations about types of readers may or may not be true. But it doesn’t really matter. Once you get your ideal reader in your head, you will be writing to that person, which will make your writing more vivid and compelling.

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