Why to write to an ideal reader and 2 ways to clearly identify them

happy ideal reader
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You know how you light up when you are talking to someone who just gets it?  You feel safe to share and go deeper with that person, because you know they get it.  You have a shared language.

Now imagine talking to someone who you can listen to, and be polite, in a conversation that doesn’t light you up.  Your conversation may not last as long or feel as richly fulfilling. 

Like, you’re bubbling with a cute story to share about your kitten.  Your sister is not a cat person.  She listens because she’s your sister.  It’s a lot more fun rehashing the kitty’s antics with your best friend with 3 cats!

Not every book is for everyone.  

You can’t (and don’t have to) win over everyone.  That’s okay.  It just means that certain things appeal to certain people.

You can like what you like, and they can like what they like.

This is why it’s difficult to reach “everyone” and have universal appeal. 

Instead of striving to make everyone happy (and inevitably becoming disappointed because it’s quite hard to please ’em all!), it’s more rewarding to speak to a particular population or two.  Sure, you could be aiming to convince a non-cat lover to appreciate the feline species, and it’s a fine choice to make consciously.  But you could also reach towards those who will reach back towards you. 

It’s okay to make a choice to write to one population and not another.  

This doesn’t mean you’re limiting yourself or keeping your piece out of the hands of someone who’d enjoy it.  It doesn’t mean that people outside your target audience wouldn’t enjoy it.  

You may have people who love the story that you never imagined reading.  The effectiveness and depth of connection is increased when you can talk directly to the reader.  It’s about thinking of certain populations.

Consider your purpose for writing.

If you’re a highly educated professional writing a memoir for the general population, you might need to be more (or less) detailed to help the reader understand.  You don’t want technical terms to confuse the reader.

These choices are based on your purpose.  What are you trying to do?  Are you wanting to convey the difficulty to someone who’s never experienced it?  Are you trying to convince them that they can do what you’ve done too, if they start?

Write directly to your ideal reader.

Some people have never been in a pool.  Some people have swum competitively.  Some people have watched a lot of swim documentaries, but have never swum themselves.  

So people would have different understandings of a breaststroke.  

When thinking about how your writing will land for your audience, you need to know who you are writing to.  It informs choices you’ll make.  Like how deep to describe a breaststroke. 

How to get clear on your target audience / ideal reader.

First, think about your own demographics.  Who are you, and where do you fit along the spectrum?  Chances are, people who share qualities with you could make ideal readers.  

  • Age 
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion 
  • Education Level
  • Socioeconomic Class

Next, think about psychographics.  This is a term used in marketing to depict:

  • Personality
  • Values 
  • Opinions 
  • Attitudes 
  • Interests 
  • Lifestyles 

Broaden your brainstorm of identities to include anyone you think would enjoy your piece.

I hope this helps you contextualize your ideal reader, and leads you to the juiciness of engaging with those who really want to soak in your words.

I encourage you to write directly to your ideal reader. The one who gets lit up by your words. The one who you feel lit up to share with. To experience that lovely loop of energy bouncing between the two of you, amplifying the connection the deeper you go.

About the author

I help people connect and tell their stories.

I am a certified coach, writing mentor, writer, and group facilitator who enjoys helping people who’ve felt different and struggle with feeling disconnected.

Since 2008, I’ve worked with writers in every messy step of the creation process. I’m passionate about delving deep into the story underneath the story — the root cause of the struggle with communication — so you can feel good about the results.

For more, I invite you to sign up for my mailing list or explore how we can work together.

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  1. Pingback: Relevancy–another reason not to strive to please everyone - Malar Ganapathiappan

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