Monday, December 21, 2015
Pacing and Munching (or Answering an Answer)
I wish you could have seen me on Sunday morning, pacing back and forth from the living room to the kitchen, grabbing a handful of dry corn-based cereal, and back again. Swallow, repeat as long as necessary, until thoughts have become organized, or at least coherent, and automatic munching is no longer required.
What, you may ask, set me off on a silent tangent of scattershot thoughts, handfuls of cereal, with a free hand waving erratically to give outside life to the rampaging words in my chaotic head? A question. A seemingly easy question posed to me by a fellow scribe, and through our fascinating Twitter conversation, we seemed to find the answer.
The question was, "...who is your target audience?"
The answer was ultimately, "Open-minded people."
Of course, I couldn't let that answer satisfy me for long. I had to pick around its edges, cut it open to see what was inside, digging for more information, more details. Searching for a more specific answer to the answer through crazy pacing, stuffing my face, and wild gesticulating.
My untethered thought process skipped and jumped around, attempting to examine why I would answer that my target audience is open-minded people. What is it about my writing to lead me to such a conclusion?
Sure, there is the fluid sexuality in a couple of characters in DARK EXCURSIONS. Not to mention the archaically modern microcosm the characters reside in. I mean, in the literary world I created there is an electronically sealed door, but no mobile devices, yet there is at least one answering machine in existence. Businessmen still carry briefcases, and at least 7 years prior to the beginning, there was an old-fashioned circus! While I might not explicitly describe this circus, in my mind I pictured a caravan not dissimilar to what is seen in DUMBO or FREAKS. Plus, the reader has to be open-minded enough to accept I never give a specific location or time for the story, or a name to the town/city that is the microcosm.
While in DARKENING STURGEONS, the town has a name, and while I don't say it, it is probably a safe bet Sturgeons is in the state of Nebraska in the U.S. It is definitely a modern, small town setting with mobile phones and security cameras, and the sexuality of the characters are a bit more specific without giving direct words to note them. How open does an open-minded person have to be to read and enjoy a story where quaint terms such as "straight" and "gay" are never uttered, but ends with (SPOILER ALERT) a man and woman kissing alongside two men kissing? Plus, the reader has to accept the admittedly ridiculous solution to the mysterious disappearances, but I did originally conceive the story as a modern version of a 1950's American monster movie, so maybe it makes sense.
And then there is how discreetly I handle sex in my fiction, well, comparatively to other authors. Not to mention a general lack of conversational cussing because I like to save swearing for emotional outbursts, not idle chit-chat. I've had a different fellow scribe ask me if I was writing teen-lit, which made me laugh because some teen books I've read are more graphic than anything I've written. Yet, I wonder if readers, even open-minded ones, are ever confused by the dichotomy of the liberal sexuality in my fiction combined with conservative storytelling.
And if I look at my known readers, who have expressed enjoyment of my writing, they are casually sprinkled throughout the spectrum. Though, from what I've seen, my library readers seem to be Caucasian women of a certain age, but I can't honestly say DE was overly enjoyed by any of them, so I shouldn't base my reader barometer on those few.
Now, as I want to wrap up this rambling blogpost about my cereal-fueled self-examination, I wonder if I shouldn't try to specifically peg my readers. A person can be open-minded about one topic, but shut down about another. So maybe my target audience consists of various brave readers, from various backgrounds, with various interests, who are willing to take a chance on an unproven self-published author from a small town in the U.S.
P.S. Please consider reading the entertaining fiction of my fellow scribe who inadvertently inspired my pacing & munching...