“You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like.”
—Phyllis A. Whitney

Looking For Your Ideal Reader?

This guest post is by Lisa Agosti. Lisa is a writer who lives in Vancouver. You can follow Lisa on her blog, All You Can Write, and on Google+.
tabitha king

Stephen and Tabitha King

Tabitha King is her husband’s Ideal Reader. In the past decades she has been the first person in Stephen King’s mind while he sat at his desk transforming his ideas into black on white stories.

To my romantic heart of an inspiring writer this sounds the most amazing connection between two people. I find it passionate and committed, powerful and tender, a role that goes past being a friend, a wife, a lover.

King wants to tell her all the lurid details of the most secret side of his brain, and considering that we are speaking of Stephen King, there sure are some crazy shadows hidden there.

Spouses Make Interesting Ideal Readers

In his On Writing Stephen King mentions how Alfred Hitchcock told his wife he wanted to fly, and how she replied, “Eat your eggs first.”

When Psycho was about to be released some thirty guests were invited for dinner to congratulate the famous director on his masterpiece. Alma Reville, Hitchcock’s wife, was quiet all through the evening. When questioned on her thoughts, she revealed that an important scene included an already-dead victim.

In one moment, Alfred Hitchcock’s critique saved her husband from being publicly humiliated for many years to come.

Searching For Your Soulmate

This leads me to the difficult task of finding an Ideal Reader myself, and I naturally lift my chin to find my beloved soul mate, wearing pyjamas covered in yellow cheesy powder, maniacally torturing his joystick, burping silently so not to disturb the stream of the football podcast whilst dutifully answering his Call of Duty III.

Maybe I will have better luck closing my eyes and daydreaming of a hot backpacker in his late thirties, travelling the world with no fear and no plans, full of amazing memories and improbable friends. I can see him, walking up the beach in a sweaty day, and now I can see me, casually lying in a hammock, lost in the reading of some obscure novel to the point of oblivion.

Now he’s asking me to join me and paying me drinks (as if).

And suddenly we realize that we’ve been talking for hours and the sun is long gone and the sand is getting cold under our feet. We might go partying that night, and the next one, and we might end up going travelling happily together ever after.

Hold on a second, that’s not a fantasy, that’s already happened! And the hot traveller is sitting in front of me, trying to scratch his back with the remote while sipping a warm beer! (too lazy to go get a cold one from the fridge, knows me well enough not to ask).

Who Is YOUR Ideal Reader?

So then WHO is my Ideal Reader going to be? Who am I thinking of while I write this?

I am thinking of a young, smart, sassy, woman. She’s wearing big round sunglasses and carrying an oversized handbag. She walks with a confident step, lost in too big a world of opportunities and ready to grasp them all. She’s not too skinny, she likes pizza and has a sense of humour. She loves drinking coffee with her girlfriends and gossip a bit, just for a laugh.

She’s the woman I wish one day to be, when I will grow up and settle down and write something deep, entertaining and unforgettable.

I might even start right now, it’s easier when you know who’s on the other hand of your thoughts.

And you? Who is your Ideal Reader going to be?

PRACTICE

Write for fifteen minutes about who your Ideal Reader is, if you have one. Or create the perfect one you can refer to from now on. Start now!

Post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to give feedback on a few practices by other writers.

About Guest Blogger

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  • Karoline Kingley

    He looks like someobdy who I would otherwise avoid, were it not for that astonighingly raggedy beard and his frank manner of speech that seems so rare these days. That perceptive and yet, apathetic twinkle in his deep grey eyes appear to hold every thought I could ever require, if only he were kind enough to lend them. I’m scared to ask him, knowing the truth may be too brutal. Anybody with a fashion sense that poor has to posses more confidence than the rest of us. But I’m a little different. Young, inexperienced and giggly, I’m unaccusomted to sobriety. The world is coated in sugar and while part of me wants it to always seem that way, I want this man to tell me something different. When I find the courage to show him my story as I hold my breath, he’s suprisingly kind. At first, the series of questions seems like an averstion. However the more he speaks, the more I see there is method to his madness. His commentary and foreceful manner of speech force me to identity the problem myself. I walk away feeling wiser and more resourceful, and I am thankful. He didn’t have to tell me that way, but he did. So I continue to write, feeling more clever despite the fact that I still confront him with every question. But he never reveals his secret with which I am fully familiar; my ideal reader allows me to believe and only snuffs away the sugar when necessary.

  • I honestly have a difficult time imagining my ideal reader. I even have a difficult time figuring out my ideal audience — who my tribe is. I guess I’m too new at it as of yet. Maybe as time goes on and I gather my tribe I will know. As for now, in my imagination, my ideal reader is someone who loves to learn something when they read fiction, who enjoys history and hunting for treasure–from the comfort of a fluffy armchair. But that’s about as far as my imagination takes me! (My husband’s not a reader.)

    • ruth

      I could identify with that reader! Someone wanting to learn, to “hunt for treasure” within the words all from a “fluffy armchair”. Those readers are out there! If you long to share something you will find the way to tell it which will reach others. Good luck!

  • ruth

    Great blog!
    My “first reader” is always my husband who patiently reads everything I write. His objectivity and kind critique direct my focus. I’d be lost without him.
    My “ideal reader” is a person of any age who appreciate a special moment or encounter with another living creature which is painted in words to capture it forever. Someone who takes the time to inhale the moment with all their senses and allows it to influence their thinking. It’s the connection with that unseen reader which keeps writers writing.

  • I already have my ideal reader: She’s my best friend, Jen & she’s the best person to ever come into my life. Heck, she’s so ideal for me, that after re-reading my work (when I should be editing), I notice that my female main character’s all are based on some aspect of her. And they all have auburn hair, and hazel, or eyes. 🙂

    She reads my WIPs before anyone else gets to, and I consider her suggestions before anyone else’s. Also, thanks to her, I’ve become a better writer, and I’m still doing so. She’s never stopped believing in me, even when I have.

  • oddznns

    My ideal readers are a 3 women and 2 ment I met online, two – open-minded and open-hearted people with global concerns in their 40’s who are spiritually centered.

    • Lisa Agosti

      Could you tell us more about it? How did you meet them? What websites did you use? How did you know they were the right ones?

      • oddznns

        Lisa, lots of people read my work but these are the 5 that I think “get it” and “represent” a “demographic” that I know is out there and that I’m trying to target.

        I’m primarily read by literary people in my little country of 4.5 million Singaporeans. That’s not a lot of people. The “demographic” I’m targeting is readers of English in the Commonwealth and in North America.

        I met 2 of the women on the Tribewriters course and 1 of the men and another woman on thestorycartel course. I chanced upon the last guy while doing a search of blogs writing about the overseas experience.

        How did I know they were the right ones … I guess they had an interest in the subjects I write about – socio-politics with a focus on how it affects individuals; they had a similar world view – a belief that love can redeem, that person to person connection matters; and they were interested in history and global affairs or lived globally.

        When I asked them to read my work, their critiques showed that they “got” what I was trying to say. Sometimes they told me they “loved” the work and I felt that it was more than superficial “love”.

        These 5 people didn’t have to give me honest criticism, they didn’t have to “love” my work, the fact they do means something I’ve written has resonated in them.

        I know there are more than 5 such people in the world. As long as I keep them in mind while writing, I think my work will be read.

  • Xenia Rose

    I have a hard time finding my ideal reader because I write horror and just about everyone in my life is a “romantic comedy kind of girl”, or uptight Christian who thinks that I should not be writing such evil, or they are just plain scared by anything that bump on the page. I keep searching, though!

  • Claire

    My ideal reader is a free-spirited, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants, street-smart, cosmopolitan, baby boomer who is an avid reader and has offered a lot of savvy advice when it comes to reading what I write. She always critiques my short stories with constructive criticism and is spot-on when it comes to grasping and interpreting what I portray in them. Her profound views on life and spirituality provide a unique analysis of situations and often lends itself to suggesting ideas for future stories; that in itself is priceless to me. She is always willing to provide insight, and I’m always willing to take her wise advice.

  • Portia McCracken

    I have found my ideal reader–all four of them! My small critique group has made each member’s writing stronger, tighter and more readable. And I feel so much more confident as a writer, a self-fulfilling prophecy of the best sort.

    Our rules are simple: point out what makes the writing good, then show how to make it better. We meet weekly, which could have been an insupportable burden if the chemistry were wrong; instead, the frequency stokes the fires even higher.

    The whole is far greater than the sum of its parts, and we all realize what a treasure we have in one another. We work hard to make sure the spark doesn’t die.

    • Lisa Agosti

      That’s awesome that you found such a group. I hope I can say the same someday. I’ve been trying to meet aspiring writers online that have my same preferences and values when it comes to literature. Truth is, the books universe seems so huge it’s hard to find the right companions to go explore it. Would you like to share with us how you met your critique group and if you have suggestions on how to create/join a critique group?

      • Portia McCracken

        Lisa, I admit I was really lucky. A dear friend whom I met in a writing class several years ago recruited me to join her and some friends who were forming a small critique group. So local connections definitely help: taking local writing classes and joining local writing groups can put you in touch with other potential ideal readers/critique partners. Attending writers conferences can also result in new friendships with other writers.

        BTW, there’s a wonderful online site, Meetup.com, that lets you to search locally for groups you’re interested in, which is how I connected with a local women writers group that was just starting up; we have monthly meetings and recently started a monthly critique group for members. I loved the energy I always received from this group, but I really wished for something more frequent. That was when, out of the blue, my friend (also a member of our new women writers group) asked me to join her new weekly critique group.

        We are a diverse group of writers: 3 very different women writers: memoirs, general fiction and screenplays; two men, both of whom are primarily screenwriters but who have also begun venturing into general fiction and memoir since our group began sharing works.

        So get out there and query the universe–if you’re persistent, it will answer you!

        • The Cody

          I consider myself Internet savvy, but I wasn’t familiar with Meetup.com. I just did a quick search and it already looks like it could be a great start. Thanks!!

          • Portia McCracken

            I’m happy to have introduced you to another source, Cody. BTW, Meetup.com is good for all kinds of groups, not just writing. I hope you find what you’re looking for.

  • Parsinegar

    My best reader so far was my writing teacher at uni, however he moved to Canada two years ago, and now I just have to come up with some theoretical abstractions about my ideal reader.
    In my perfect world, I expect my ideal reader to be truly critical of what I write, while also understand the slightest nuances of my work. If I had a chance to have someone who could deeply connect to what I have to narrate, I’d definitely manage to give him/her a few glimpses of how the world can be seen from the lenses put on my eyes right after birth. I can’t name anyone special, but long ago an intimate friend of mine (who unfortunately left Iran, too) read one of my short works and said, “There definitely is something inside you needing to be told”. She could be my greatest reader.

  • I would love to have one ideal reader, but I’ve yet to find him/her. I have several readers who give me advice and suggestions in different areas (story structure and impact, readability, etc.). For my last novel, I thought that was enough to forgo a good copy editor. WRONG. I guess the ideal ideal reader for me would be someone who I could trust to give me honest and informed advice, plus a good copy edit. Is there even such a person?

  • Alyssa Phillips

    I know this might sound a bit egotistical, but my ideal reader is a younger version of myself. Simply put, she would be a hopeless romantic who believes that true love still exists and is a dreamer. She would love fairy tales and folklore. She has her nose buried in books and prefers to stay that way.

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