Recently someone asked me what age group of reader I was targeting with my WIP. My initial reaction was probably the same as most people: “all of them!”
After all, as writers, we want to reach as many people as possible, don’t we? It puts me in mind of board games where it says on the side of the box “fun for the whole family: aged 8 to 80”. (Sorry you 81-year-olds!) And that’s kind of how I feel about my books: Ihope they will be enjoyed by people older than me and younger, and those who are my (approximate) age. We want to reach as many as we can with our work, and are reluctant to rule anyone out. After all, we know that not all fantasy is read by young people, that not all family saga is read by older people. There are always plenty of people who don’t fit into marketing stereotypes, and we don’t want to disregard them just because they are a bit different to what it says on the box.
I’ve read several times this week about the importance of having in your mind an image of your perfect, or some might say, average reader, and of writing your book as if you are writing for that one person. The idea is that it makes it easier to keep your book focused, and to maintain consistency of POV and tense.
I’d go a step further. Use a real person. Most of us have that one person we talk to about our writing, or one or two people. Most of us run ideas past them for feedback, let them read the messy first drafts, and sob on their shoulders when we get a stinking review. These are–hopefully–the people who can look us in the eye and say “Sweetie-pie, in all honesty, it sucks. Write something else.” Let’s face it, you already know this person so well, you know what they like, what they don’t like, their favourite colour, and their alcoholic drink of choice. So it seems to me it is simply good sense to use them as a sounding board during the writing process, not just after it.
BUT…If you don’t have someone in your life like that, you can just as easily create a mental image of a perfect reader in the same way as you create the rest of your book and people its pages with characters. Okay, so they won’t buy you a G & T when you’re down, but they can still be useful. Give your person a name and an identity, with the quirks and foibles of real people. See them in your mind and address them as if they were real and present in the room with you. Speak to them directly as you write–tell them the story. If it helps you could even put at the top of your first page, “Dear (insert name here!), I am writing to tell you the story of…” –after all, you can always remove this later.
It doesn’t matter if your perfect reader is real or pretend, so long as they act as your creative muse and encourage you to find your voice and get writing.