Tuesday, December 17, 2019


     We’ve had enough political crap for a day or so, I think. The merry-go-round won’t stop turning because the Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch have looked aside for an article or two. Besides, by my current estimate, the Democrats’ hunt for an impeachment pony under the eyelash-deep pile of FBI, DoJ, and Deep State corruption manure will still be in progress on January 19, 2025. So let’s talk about something else.

     Like why you come here to read the drivel we post, perhaps?

     One of the mantras relentlessly repeated by and at writers of all varieties is that you must know your audience. In other words: know what sort of reader you’re writing to attract, and what it is he wants that you can offer him.

     “Who is my audience?” isn’t a question to be answered with a list of names. It’s concerned with the qualifications, convictions, and specific desires the writer imagines his reader to possess: his background, intelligence, degree of literacy, other eruditions, orientation, and appetites. Despite the aforementioned mantra, very few writers ever think about the specifics of those things. In consequence, we mostly wind up writing to please ourselves.

     Mind you, that’s not a bad thing. If you can’t please yourself with your written work, you’re unlikely to carry on with it for long. Nevertheless, it helps if, once in a while, the writer asks himself the questions implied by the above. As I’m of an analytical bent, I probably do so more often than most.

     I conceive of the audience for what’s posted here at Liberty’s Torch as above-average in intelligence, and at least moderately knowledgeable about such things as history, current events, and contemporary controversies. While it is a commonplace that readers gravitate to op-ed sites such as this one not for enlightenment but for confirmation of their existing opinions and beliefs, I’d like to think that our readers are open to a change of opinion should hard, verifiable evidence point in an unexpected direction. In other words, I imagine the typical reader of this site to be bright, erudite, and intellectually honest.

     Consider for a moment the reinvigorated issue of pornography, which is more easily obtained today than ever before. Recently op-ed articles have appeared claiming that scientific evidence has established that porn is harmful to its consumer, irrespective of his age, sex, or orientation. The proponents have claimed that this constitutes an argument for outlawing porn. Now, that’s not a complete argument for outlawing something; if it were, cigarettes would have been outlawed decades ago. But it does at least suggest that the sober-minded citizen should review the evidence, if only for his own sake and the sake of his dependents.

     Consider also the claims of gun-control advocates and groups that both interpersonal violence and suicides could be greatly reduced by banning the private ownership of firearms. Now, those claims have been refuted in case after case – but to refute them, rather than simply dismiss them, is the obligation of an intellectually honest man. Fortunately, the evidence that countervails the gun-controllers’ assertions is publicly available. But what if it pointed in the opposite direction? Once again, the intellectually honest man would be required to concede that point, whether or not there remains any argument that private firearms ownership should be legal.

     Readers who can grasp what I’ve said in the above and agree with the principles involved are my target audience here at Liberty’s Torch.

     When I write fiction, it’s always to please myself. Whether it be science fiction, fantasy, supernatural events, romance, a family saga, or erotica, the “first consumer” – myself – is the one it must satisfy. Even so, I have a conception of the sort of person who’d enjoy delving into the kinds of stories I choose to tell and the way in which I tell them. And yes, I have him in mind at least some of the time as I fashion my tales.

     First, he must be unafraid of my tendency to imbue a story with the Christian moral / ethical framework. That’s absolute, as I never write anything from which those moral and ethical principles are absent. Sometimes – often – they’re “the stars of the show.” Indeed, they’re the main reason I write at all.

     Second, he must be willing to accept, at least for fictional purposes, the existence of heroes: persons of high character who are willing to place themselves at risk, or to embrace extraordinary tasks that require great effort and personal sacrifice, for something they deem more important than their own interests or well-being. Many readers are unwilling to believe that such persons could exist. They’re “too much larger than life.” Even some of my Supporting Cast characters have a hard time with the notion. But I consider the absence of genuinely heroic figures from contemporary fiction to be a major contributor to the cynicism and malaise common among today’s young people. I want to give them models to emulate, as best they can.

     Third, he must be able to endure my writing style, which is somewhat high-flown, moderately fussy, and a trifle archaic. I know many readers are miffed by the intricate involutions I indulge and the prissy phrasings I prefer. (Some of them are offended by alliteration as well, but there’s a treatment for that now.) It takes a somewhat quirky sense of humor to enjoy the way I tell a tale. The willingness to consult a dictionary every so often helps, too.

     (An English teacher once said of my style that “It went out of style around 1910,” so it would be foolish of me to regard the dislike of my style as some sort of bigotry. Chacun a son gout, as they say.)

     Fourth, he must not be looking for a retread of some sort. I can’t bring myself to write stories that involve old, overused settings and motifs, such as:

  • Space wars (i.e., spaceships shooting at one another);
  • Galactic empires;
  • Time travel;
  • The end of things as we know them (i.e., post-apocalyptics);
  • Traditional monsters (e.g., vampires, werewolves, zombies);
  • Quest stories about a hunt for some critically important object;

     I’ll occasionally read such a story, but I can’t overcome my desire to explore genuinely original motifs and settings when I write. That leaves me off all the bandwagons to which writers looking to “get on the gravy train” are attracted.

     That’s my target audience: the readers I can imagine would enjoy the tales I tell and the way I tell them. It’s also why I can hardly give my novels away.

     Audience awareness, whether or not his audience is consciously imagined and chosen, is fundamental to a writer’s chances of being read. Yes, he must please himself. But if he manages to please himself only, he’ll languish in obscurity. Few writers aspire to be unknown, unsung geniuses.

     If you write – fiction, exposition, op-ed, travelogues, cookbooks, what-have-you – how do you envision your audience? Co-Contributors? Colleagues from elsewhere on the Web? Graduates of the Famous Writers School? Bueller?

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