Sunday, January 2, 2011

The People You Know

***First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a happy 2011 filled with book deals and adoring fans.***

Most writers write with an audience in mind, even if that audience is only a vague: people like me. Sometimes it's way more specific, with age, gender, even socioeconomic standing or ethnicity taken into consideration. Who a writer writes for will vastly alter what s/he writes, not to mention what gets cut during editing.

So, what I'm wondering is, do you ever find yourself writing for the people you know? Do you worry about what your friends and family will think about a certain scene, concept or character? Do you avoid basing characters off of friends of friends or colleagues, in case they're recognized.

There's no denying it can get awkward. It's kind of hard to hand your Dad a piece of writing with a sex scene and say, here, read this and not feel weird about it.

The popular theory seems to be that it's not what, but who you know that will determine your success as a writer. One of the best tools a writer has is his/her circle of acquaintance. Word-of-mouth is an excellent form of promotion (I know I'm personally a lot more likely to read a book based on a recommendation from someone with similar taste than I am to read one because it's a best-seller), but I find it kind of difficult to approach people and ask them to promote me - and even more difficult if they themselves are not part of my target audience, or worse, I know they're likely to disapprove of what I've written.

So, do you skip sex scenes to prevent your dad from reading them, or skirt religious debates to avoid upsetting your grandparents, try not to rail against your day job to placate your boss?

Do you just not tell people what you're writing and hope that some never find out?

Alternatively, do you just write the way you want to write, release your writing into the world and reap the whirlwind (/backlash)?

I was terrified to let Aigaion Girl go. I wrote it happily enough, not really giving any thought to anything other than the flow of the story, the realism of the characters, the cadence of the prose--It never occurred to me that I should avoid certain topics or images - until I was getting ready to publish, and realized that somewhere along the way, there was good chance my grandmother was going to read it. She won't, thankfully*. I was actually a little surprised that I didn't experience more negativity from my extended family. I didn't send them all invitations to join my Facebook fan page or anything, but, especially with social networking sites like FB, it's kind of impossible to keep my writing secret from anyone without using a pseudonym.

So there's a question, too: Is it worth it to write under another name, so that you can write with abandon?

Really, I'm just curious to know how other writers deal with their family and friends when it comes to their writing - how much of a consideration friends and family are.

*I love my Gran and I don't want to read something that I know will upset her (I've since been told by others that the book is really sexual, which surprised me because all the sex scenes are fade-to-black).


E said...

...the people I know mostly don't want to read what I'm writing. Or at least I thought so. Unfortunately, one of the most literary-types of my friends has just decided he wants to read my unedited Peter Pan-inspired children's book, and he wants me to read his literary fiction endeavour about a near-death experience and appreciation for life. My novel has pirates, ninja-astronauts, fairies, and a masked ball. His has a songwriter and depth.
One of these things is not like the others.

So yeah, I guess I just avoid thinking about it while I write, and then I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Although, I have all but stopped writing overwrought tragic vampire romances because one of my sisters said one was boring her to tears. So maybe I do consider the audience.

Dammit, Athena, stop making me think so hard.

Athena said...

How do you know your friend isn't thinking, "Damn, her story is all imaginative and creative and mine just has a bit of introspection"? - but I know what you mean; I'm always a little aprehensive about showing my work to other writers, especially close friends.

Also, based on what I've read, your sister is crazy (or at least has a very different taste in fiction than I do)

Rhiannon said...

I'd like to say that I write just for myself and everyone else can lump it, but I'd probably be lying. At the same time, I've never been able to tailor a story to a specific audience before...and when I try, it feels like I'm suppressing something that should be coming naturally. So mostly I just ignore the whole 'specific audience' thing and go for what feels right. I hope this means my work will be more universally liked (and not make me an arrogant sod), but until I get properly published, I'll never really know...

To me, though, ninja-austronauts, fairies, pirates and a masque seems a hell of a lot more interesting than 'I almost died and then learned stuff', which isn't to say that your friend's book won't be either a)good or b)interesting, but rather that I like my fiction with lots of colour. >:D

(PS: Welcome back! We were beginning to get worried. >:)

E said...

(Aww, I missed you guys too! It was nice to have an unexpected vacation from Internet, but I'd appreciate a warning from the fam next time.)

And my friend is a total literary and film snob, so the nervousness is totally warranted. :S