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Remembering That Your Audience Is Real
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Originally uploaded by country_boy_shane

I saw Kristin Gorski from Write Now Is Good relating a story that she'd heard a friend re-tell her (seems like this is one of those stories that gets told and retold, and no one is really sure where it originally came from!) She says:

A family sits down in a restaurant and starts to look at their menus. After a few minutes, the waitress comes over and first takes the parents' orders. She then turns to the little boy.

"And what would you like?" she says.

"A hot dog," he says.

The father looks at the son and then says to the waitress, "He'll have the roast chicken."

The waitress then turns back to the little boy. "And what would you like with your hot dog?"

"French fries," he says, quietly, looking sheepishly at his father.

The father states, "No, he'll have the rice and broccoli."

The waitress, writing nothing down, then turns back to the boy. "And what would you like to drink?"

"Chocolate milk," the boy says.

"He'll have the plain milk," says the father, looking directly at the waitress.

"Alright. That'll be a hot dog, french fries, and chocolate milk for the little mister," the waitress repeats back. She turns and walks towards the kitchen.

The boys turns to his mother and whispers, "She knows I'm real."

Sometimes you'll hear people say "the internet is a cold, mechanical place", or "nothing is real on the internet", or "connections and relationships you form online aren't real", but if you think about it, the online writer is in much the same situation as any writer of print books and articles. People who write off-line books and magazine articles aren't literally seeing their audience either.

What allows a writer to connect with his or her audience–whether you're writing an online article or a handwritten letter to Aunt Sally–is keeping in mind who you're writing for and remembering that they are in fact real. That your audience is real also means that they can sense when you're being real or authentic as well.

So, when you're writing, picture your intended audience, and as best you can write as if you were writing to an real person rather than a demographic target market :-)

And as Kristin says: 

Listen to people who give you feedback on your writing; they are giving you something of value, even if you may not agree with it, so be sure to take in what they are saying. Think of the people in your daily life, those who often become invisible. 

These people are real. See them.

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2 Responses to “Remembering That Your Audience Is Real”

  1. Emily says:

    The little boy touched me deeply and I felt the essence of what you were protraying. I feel if what we write does not bring life to the reader, then why do we write? The child in all of us is real.

  2. Steve Shaw says:

    Hi Emily,

    Yes, the child touched me too :-) Instead of writing for a nameless, faceless, emotionless audience, it helps us to think of our audience as being real, as having real desires and wants and preferences. That makes the reader say, “She knows I’m real.” :-)

    Thanks so much for chiming in!

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