When asked how he became a bestselling author, Elmore Leonard replied, I started writing only the parts people wanted to read.
Now, I’m paraphrasing an interview I read years ago, so the quote might not be exact. But the sentiment is something that has stuck with me.
I only want to write the parts people want to read.
I never want to bore and audience. I want don’t want their minds to wander away from the page.
Of course, you’ll always bore someone. If you keep the action at a fast boil, some will clamor for more characterization, more personal background (they want to know characters’ favorite breakfast cereals, the names of their pet iguanas, what they read on the can). But Delve into the protagonist’s life too deeply, and others will thumb through the pages wanting you to "get on with the plot, damn it!" The solution seems obvious. Find the middle ground and you’ll find the biggest possible audience. Right?
I can’t help but feel that danger lingers in that line of thinking.
Alexandra Sokoloff wrote a great post yesterday on style. What happens to style (or voice, or storytelling) when the writer questions his choices based not on his own preferences, but on the preferences of this unknown audience? And who can really guess what people want? If I constantly try to please everyone, who do I really please?
So instead, do I ignore this invisible audience, and write from instinct and heart?
A voice in my head screams, "No friggin’ way."
I can think of two best selling authors who prove my point (and no I will NOT name names). They’ve sold millions and made millions and pretty much have a guarantee that whatever they scribble down will be published. But ask their fans, and I’ll bet they enjoyed the authors’ middle works the best, not the 10,000 page rambling "epics" they’ve just produced. My guess is that these bestsellers have let their egos take the wheel and jammed their audience in the back seat.
Then what’s the solution? Do we strive for art, audience be damned? Or do we try to see our work from another perspective and let the thought of audience become our internal editors? And if the latter is the case, how do we keep from losing our voice?
The new guy needs answers people.