One of the main areas of focus that writers must concentrate on, when writing any story, is who we are writing the story for. Who is your target audience? That seems like a rather simple concept, but so is clothing that is supposed to be “one size fits all”. Believe me, that is one of the greatest lies ever conceived.
When considering who your target audience is, you typically focus on a particular age group, sex, and genre. That gives you a great starting point. But if you really want to reach the group of people that will actually enjoy your story, you cannot stop there.
I went to the library a few days ago, looking for a few good books to read. I picked up a couple from a well known writer, a New York Times Best Seller author. The books were written for what is considered my “ideal interests”. The book is written from a woman’s perspective. It deals with modern day struggles with parenting and family life; all of which I should be able to relate to perfectly well. The problem is, I cannot relate to the characters, therefore, I cannot gain enough interest in the story to continue reading beyond the first few chapters.
My lack of interest has nothing to do with the quality of the writing, or the author’s ability to tell a good story. I simply cannot relate to the characters. The characters are financially well to do, healthy, and live, what I consider, a very easy life. Their problems seem petty to me, though I am sure there are many people that can adequately relate to their struggles. This is made even more evident by the fact that the book is a Best Seller. Instead of continuing to force myself to read the book, I have been contemplating on what it is that makes a book so appealing to some, and yet, so unappealing others, even though all of those said people come from what should be the targeted group of readers.
Now I would love to say that my lack of interest is spawned by the vast difference between my economical lifestyle and the characters’ in the book, but that would not even be true. There are struggles that I can easily relate to regardless of how wealthy or poor someone is. In fact, I believe that there is one main factor that could pinpoint exactly who your target audience is, and you will find that once that one key point is found, it doesn’t matter what age, sex, or genre the reader typically enjoys reading.
Look at the all of the books that have transcended all the barriers most books face. The Harry Potter books alone were read and still are read by people from all walks of life. Why? The main character went from poor to rich. He went from a nobody to a celebrity. He was an average student with average looks. He was a boy with no talents to suddenly finding he had many. But none of that was the main focus of the books, so none of that had any bearing to whom could relate to the story. Harry Potter was a character that everyone could relate to in one way or another. His main struggles were not his own, but they were struggles that affected the whole world.
Not every story can be so epic and appeal to so many. That doesn’t mean the story is not worth writing or worth publishing. But if you cannot figure out who your target audience is exactly, your story will be doomed before it is even given a chance. The plain and simple fact is, you must understand who can relate to the struggles your characters are facing. Personally, I have a million other worries in life to deal with rather that waste my time worrying about planning for my child’s birthday party. That isn’t important to me. If the description stated that as the main focus of the book, I would have returned it to the shelf. I want to experience people overcoming troubles that are important to me.
So ask yourself, what makes your story meaningful to someone and who is that someone? Don’t worry about age, sex, or genre until you figure out that one key point.