liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Who do you write for?

Wheeeee! I actually have time to turn on my computer!

Mostly it's cleaning up the next part of Facing the Heart in Darkness, but these questions from lettered got my brain spinning up with this post on the imagined audience. I think they're a good set of questions that most writers (fanfic and original fiction) should probably ask themselves occassionally.

What fics have you written with imaginary audiences in mind? Why?

As strange as this sounds, in Buffy fanfic I tend to look at Buffy fandom as a whole as my imaginary audience. Which may sound strange coming from someone who writes: 1) gen and 2) mostly Xander-centric fanfic. It also sounds like I have a hell of an ego, too.

I suppose it's because I actually do have a publishing background and have had experience in helping to launch one trade publication, two trade newsletters, and two email newsletters. I've also sat in on discussions where the company was either launching a news supplement or a new section in the newspaper. The first question always asked is: "Who is our potential audience?" The second question, "How well defined is that audience?" The third question, "How much of that audience will spend money (or time) reading this?"

So from day one, I asked myself those questions. My potential audience? Everyone in Buffy fandom who reads fanfic. How well defined is that audience? Pretty well-defined and a self-selected group at that. How much of that audience is willing to spend time reading me? A small percentage, to be sure, but enough to at least get good feedback and help improve my writing.

So, at the top of the heap, let's say, "Imaginary audience: Buffy fans who read fanfic, no restrictions."

From there, I tend to break my imaginary audience into groups. "People who like Xander as a character, but don't think he's perfect" is primary subgroup I write for. That eliminates an awful lot of my potential audience, but leaves a bigger one than you might suppose.

"People who will read fic even though the shipping element isn't that strong" is the second subgroup I write for. Oddly enough, this actually expands my potential audience since people who read and/or write het/gen/slash are at least willing to sample the goods..and they're willing to sample it more than once before deciding whether to drop me or stick with me. It more than makes up for the loss on the Xander front.

Why? I can't say for sure if it's true or not, but I think it's because if a story just happens to have a shipping element, it's not shoved down a reader's throat. There's plenty of other elements (I hope) that they'd like, even if they don't like or could care less about the 'ship. In short, I try to make it easy for people who don't like, for example, Faith/Xander to just go with it and move on because it's not the central theme or point of any given story. If a 'ship comes into play at all, it's a characterization element, and less so a story element. It's a pretty important distinction, I think.

This is why I think I'm one of the few people out there who'll look at a het fic or a slash fic and call it gen. For example, I tend to view othercat, entrenous88, texanfan as more gen writers (even though most of them are better known as a slash writers) because the relationships they have in their stories tend to serve the plot, instead of the other way 'round. I maybe even tend to go to a greater extreme and say that even if a story has "on screen sex" it's possible for it to be gen, if the sex involved serves the plot instead of being the focus of the plot.

This is why, to an extent, I think Character/Character warnings and het/slash labels are, at their heart, pretty misleading. Unless a story is primarily a romance, I personally don't think the labels are all that terrifically important. I've never been in a position where I've been pissed off about a "hidden pairing." Bad grammar, rampant misspelling, character bashing, cheap story-telling, lazy formatting...these things piss me off. 'Ships, regardless of whether it is het or slash? Not so much.

However, my potential audience wants them; my potential audience expects them; it is the norm for my potential audience. So, labels of het/slash or Character/Character it is, even if I think it's not a big deal.

What's a group that's been your imaginary audience?

Well, I still hold that Buffy fans who read fanfic is still my imaginary audience, although they're a very patient group since I do multichaptered fics. So far TeH ev0l plans have paid off. People who give me feedback really do read and/or write a huuuuuuuge selection of fic types, genres, and ships. Hell, not all of them even count Xander as their number-one favorite character. I'll be honest: I'm really very proud of the fact that anyone who wants to can come hang out in my LJ, regardless of who they are (and what they write) on line and in RL.

Who's a person who's been your imaginary audience?

If you're looking at a person as a stand in for the type of audience you are reaching for it all depends on the story...hell, sometimes depends on the story part.

For my Africander fic, Facing the Heart in Darkness, I admit that I've deliberately targeted speakr2customrs as my potential audience of one since he's actually seen parts of Africa and because Lonely on the Mountain is an impossible story to beat. While I know he hasn't been in Mali, I sure as shit make sure my Africa facts and figures are straight before I post anything because I don't want him to go, "Ummmm, dude? That's just wrong."

Although othercat doesn't know this, and even though it predates my joining LJ by quite a bit, Whisper was actually targeted at her at my imaginary audience of one. (Yes, I was anonymously fangirling her). She had no fucking clue who I was at the time, but I still targeted her as my potential audience for Whisper.

Contrite Spirits was most definitely targeted at huzzlewhat as my imaginary audience of one. She had already written Seeing Africa, which is still pretty much the standard Xander-in-Africa "small" story in my mind. While there is no "in text" connection, it would be very fair to say that her characterization of Xander in that story is not that far removed from Xander's characterization in mine.

My DarkXander fic is actually targeted at sunnyd_lite as my imaginary audience of one, for a lot of reasons. She'll know why when I send her some test chapters to Spike-pick. The primary reason is because I want readers like her who don't like squick for squick's sake, but only if it's used in a meaningful way and has serious, possibly even fatal, consequences.

I could go on and on and on with more examples, but then I'd be here all night.

Is there a particular person or group who is often your imaginary audience, and if so, who are they?

I know this sounds like a cop-out, but see above. It's pretty much the same answer as the first three.

Who's that person who's fb you often or always think about when you write, and against your better judgment and confidence in yourself, feel kinda vindicated when you get?

I'm greedy. No, seriously. I'm lucky to have people who will frequently and often given excellent feedback and concrit and I'm grateful to all of them. I don't feel "vindicated" just because one person in particular pays attention to me. I'm just happy anyone pays attention to me at all.

And I always feel vindicated when someone reads a new part and goes, "Ahhhhhh, so that's where you're going. Now I see what you were doing." Best. Compliment. Ever.

Who's your imagined unaudience? Who have you hoped would never read what you've written? Besides your mom and that skeevy guy you saw once at Wal-Mart who followed you for a full ten minutes and got some of his guano on your shoe, are there sometimes people on lj who you hope might skip on by such and such fic? Ever write something knowing so and so will dislike it, and hope they don't read it and think less of your writing for it?

I have three imagined unaudiences:

People who think Xander is the greatest thing evah! They think I bash Xander all the time and that I'm not a real Xander fan. This may have something to do with the fact that Xander can be wrong, make stupid mistakes, and be an asshole.

People who think Xander is the worst thing evah! They think I defend Xander too much and should be writing something with "better" (read: more popular) characters. The fact I like Xander and write Xander obviously says something about me as a person. (

Hell, I've been anti-recc'd a couple of times over the Xander issue, both pro and con. I have no idea how I've managed that and I'm afraid to ask.

The third audience: People who are looking for character-bashing fics against any character and are pissed when their hated character and/or ship doesn't get tarred and feathered like they want. Go away. You bother me.

Obviously the above answers are predicated on the fact that most of my public stuff is Buffy fanfic. The answers will change for any original fic that finally escapes my hard drive.

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