My ideal reader?

Last week was a potpourri of procrastination during which (as instructed, it seems, by every on-line writing guru in the world) I took steps to establish my virtual presence as a newbie novelist. This exercise was in turns disheartening (so many writers! so many books!), faintly disturbing (dystopia erotica anyone?) and enlightening. I could easily spend the rest of my writing life reading about writing and leave my MC (= main character; note my on-trend use of writers’ jargon) forever stranded in a train somewhere in war-torn France – but I won’t because she is now more real to me than most of my everyday life, with the possible exception of my Mastercard bill.

What I will do, in accordance with my objectives in keeping this blog, is gradually share the best of  the resources I come across – so long as you promise to keep in mind that this is a very personal account of a very idiosyncratic journey and therefore not an expert endorsement of any advice or services. Got that?

Out of the dozens of websites and Facebook pages which I reviewed Well-Storied stood out immediately as one worthy of a bookmark on my favourites bar – thanks to its uncluttered yet functional design, nice integration with social media and (best of all) reference to the Oxford comma (my personal literary aphrodisiac). Hooked, I lingered and clicked through to ‘Community’ and there discovered #SocialStory Twitter chats (every Wednesday, 9pm Eastern Time – whatever that is in relation to London). Scrolling down the list of recent topics, I found a recap of a Twitter chat devoted to a 5-Step Guide to Finding your Ideal Reader and was intrigued enough to read on.

An author’s Ideal Reader (IR!) is “the fictional person your book would most appeal to”; a concept once defined that apparently offers a useful anchor when making writing and marketing decisions. Since I have absolutely no idea for whom I am writing, I duly followed the 5 Steps. Here is the outcome, arrived at in real Twitter chat time without too much agonising or over-thinking.

(If you wish to complete this exercise yourself, please do so following the original #SocialStory Twitter chat recap.)

Step 1: What is the age and gender of my Ideal Reader? What are their favourite books and films/tv programmes?

Probably female, likely over 30 (not sure why, maybe the childbirth scenes). Probably a sucker for Downton Abbey, Foyle’s War, The Crown and anything starring Whats-his-name – but also likes darker and sexier  productions GWTWlike Taboo, The Young Pope and Versailles. Loves a strong woman but also has a secret penchant for alpha-male stuff like Die Hard and House of Cards. More than happy to watch Casablanca for the nth time.

Step 2: What is my IR’s passion (outside of books)?

Women’s rights, feminist politics, history, theatre and arts; possibly involved in academia, teaching and/or healthcare.

Step 3: What are my IR’s best and worst qualities? What makes my IR happy, sad, angry, afraid?

Nagging social conscience and inconvenient idealism – but prone to taking things a bit too seriously sometimes and being far too self-critical.

Happiest when in-the-zone and fully engaged with creative or caring activity. Made sad when reality intrudes. Gets angry at social injustice and violence against women worldwide; afraid of catastrophic world events.

Step 4: What is my IR’s biggest struggles or insecurities in life?

Time passing.

Step 5: Why does my IR love reading? What is my IR looking for in a book?

Escape to another world of excitement and passion – but one that is nevertheless grounded in reality and to which she can relate. Wants a story that is intellectually satisfying and aesthetically pleasing – and (ideally) ends happily. 

Was this useful? Yes, oddly enough – but I can’t quite work out why.

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About Hannah

Newbie novelist, sometime midwife, lazy mountaineer, creative gardener. Writing first novel: a Great War romantic thriller of suffragettes and soldiers; duty, courage, and the pain of love.
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