Tolkien, artist

Writing For an Audience, Tailoring a Tale

An online friend posted a question the other day that got me thinking. When you write a story, who do you write for? Are you writing just for you? Are you writing for your reading audience? If you are writing for yourself, then why bother posting at all? But if you are writing for an audience, who comprises that audience? Good questions.

I am based in the USA and I write for myself with hope that a larger audience might find my words and storylines to be of interest to them. Because I have that hope, I am always thrilled to get reviews, and happy to get comments. Also because of my location I write using a US vernacular and try not to choose terms that are too far outside of the commonly used words for my nation. I don't use "boot" instead of "trunk", if I'm writing a story set in modern times I don't have my young male characters wearing shorts for normal and daily attire because in the US they would probably be wearing long pants (depending on climate), and I don't have my characters eating "bangers and mash" because that meal usually would not be called by that name here. I choose my terminology because of where I live.

That said, if I would be writing a story where my characters would be living in London or in another part of England, I might use terms more commonly used in that area, but I know I don't have a good handle on all of the nuances and I would ask a few online friends to take a quick read-through and see what I had wrong. If I need the true feel of a different culture, I cannot get that from the outside looking in. I need an expert, someone immersed in that culture, to take a look for me.

So, with this established, what about fantasy worlds? On one hand we have elves, dragons, magic. On another hand we have galactic empires, gravity-defying devices and sentient androids. How do we approach correct terminology for societies that have never actually existed?

That is the beauty of original fiction. All of a sudden you can make a world. You can call vehicles hovercraft, anti-gravs, or simply horses. You can fight with swords or with blasters or ray guns. You can construct your world as you see fit, and you can construct your vocabulary to match. Tolkien did this by inventing languages and forming cultures using the languages, eventually ending up with realms in which new readers lose themselves every day. The world he created is rich, multi-layered, and ever-surprising; it's a multi-layered chocolate cake of pure delight. If the worlds that we are creating end up to be even one bite as pleasant, then we're succeeding as authors of fiction.
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I write both for myself and the readers. It's a great feeling to write. It's a great feeling to get reviews. And it's great to make friendships with readers and other writers. :)
I agree that writing for oneself and still keeping in mind the greater audience is the ideal and certainly what I strive for. But when it comes to the pure satisfaction of having crafted a story that I'm proud of, that is totally written for my own self-gratification and if others also like it and comment positively on it, it's all for the better. Icing on the cake, so to speak.

The friendships that I have been fortunate to develop with other authors and readers has been amazing and is something that I truly treasure.

- Erulisse (one L)
I write for myself. My reasoning is that if I enjoy the finished story the readers will as well.

Well, I enjoy your stories, so you must have something right :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
Q1: for myself
Q2: because when I mention toodling with something, folks pounce me that they want to read it, so that's why I share
Q3: English is not my mother tongue, so I use the English that has been taught to me: British English, even in o-fic where I write in my native language and in English.
Q4: Vocab and word usuage as close to the location and time period for historical fiction, unless you want Cleopatra really using her cell phone to annoy the hell out of Marc Anthony.
Q5: for o-fic fantasy, whatever comes natural to you. If you edit like mad to submit it for publication go by the publisher's standards and requirements.


Edited at 2012-10-27 05:19 pm (UTC)
OK, I am in love with the vision of Cleo on a cell phone. Totally in love.

You are absolutely correct, items submitted for publication must meet the parameters of the publisher/venue/requirements.

I sometimes wish I had a better grounding in vernacular other than standard US. I've got a good handle on British word usage, but I'm not a native and haven't been there long even though I've read a good amount. I would still be uneasy about slang.

I am always in awe and have so much respect for anyone who writes in English as a second language. I know that my own skills in Spanish or German are most certainly NOT at a level that could be released to the public, not even at a level that a letter between friends would tolerate. *sigh*

- Erulisse (one L)
I wrote fiction for myself alone for years upon years (from 1992 to 2011, and still do betimes). I think it was about a year ago that I started nosing into the Tolkien fandom; now I tend to write things* bearing in mind that people other than myself will read it, and that it should be comprehensible to people outside my head if I want anyone to engage me about it. I tend to have an audience in mind for challenge stories; things written of my own volition are more in the "for myself, but should make sense to others" category. Those latter tend to be my darker and more philosophically inclined works.

*Tolkien-derived things. Sadly I haven't written OFIC since about 2007, but the Legendarium is keeping me sufficiently preoccupied.
I have only posted my Tolkien-related fics and those are written to a topic point and posted for others to read. I haven't posted any of my o-fic and I'm not sure if I ever will since these forums are Tolkien-related. But even though I may be the only one to read a piece, I still write for an audience. I wonder why? So many authors are writing for themselves only...

This has turned into an interesting thread...

*hugs* are totally there for "dark" topics since I write plenty of those in my head or on my keyboard.

- Erulisse (one L)
But even though I may be the only one to read a piece, I still write for an audience. I wonder why?

When/how did you start writing? Were you already immersed in or lurking in online writing/fiction communities when you began?

I started as a kid, alone in my room, wanting to get a story out of my head, and other people reading it didn't really cross my mind.
I never wrote fanfic until I found the Tolkien boards several years ago and I lurked until B2ME 2011, never writing before then although I was doing beta work and some crit work. But I've been writing on and off for most of my life in a variety of formats, some paid some unpaid.

I hated handwriting stories, but my father gave me a typewriter for the holidays when I was ten and after I taught myself how to type, I was out of the door running.

- Erulisse (one L)
Huh, interesting... I share what seems to be a common thought here: I try to write within the (fairly narrow) bounds of what I think is good, then share it in the hopes that others think the same. Validation.

"'s a multi-layered chocolate cake of pure delight."
I think the reason Tolkien's world is so easy to immerse oneself in is because it does start with the languages, going from there to cultures to realms. Fictitious worlds based on, say, architecture just aren't as relatable or believable.
Thanks for joining the discussion.

There does seem to be a consensus here, a meeting of the minds, as it were. I really found everyone's points of view to be fascinating, including yours of course. I do think that the validation of others is an important component to writing, at least for many people, although writing itself is a solitary activity.

Yes, Tolkien made a landscape so rich and varied it took him a lifetime to create it and can take everyone immersed in it another lifetime to explore.

- Erulisse (one L)