You Need an Ideal Reader


You Need an Ideal Reader

What is an Ideal Reader?

 The Ideal Reader represents the audience you want to reach with your finished piece of work with two important additions.

Addition One: the Ideal Reader (IR) likes you enough to read your stuff.

Addition Two: the IR is articulate enough to provide useful comments. If you’re writing for children, this might be tough (although not impossible—you could watch the children`s reactions as they hear the story).

An IR’s feedback can be more specific than your writing group’s because she knows if the situation, characters, plot, etc. work for the target audience. In addition, he’s coming to the work cold (unlike your reading group which has probably discussed it quite a bit) and so can pick up big issues and blind spots which might have been missed in the minutiae of writing.

Why you need one—an example

This suggestion may not sound much different from getting feedback from your writing group, so I’ll give you an example of where I profited from having one.

I was working on my novel, Scam!, about four Canadian actors who pretend to be an intact British acting family to get parts on an American sitcom.

My first draft took on the feel of a heist movie. You know, where a group concocts a complicated and split-second timed plan to steal the crown jewels, the Hope diamond, whatever. With this type of plot, there is no movie unless they get to the actual heist. Similarly, in my story, there is no novel unless the actors get the sitcom parts. In both, the reader knows the intended end point, so the interest has to be built in how they get there. Therefore, I spent a lot of time creating roadblocks and close calls to maintain the tension which might otherwise come from the reader wondering how will this end?

I finished the novel and, although there was a little niggle that it wasn’t my usual style, I nevertheless thought it was done.

After reading it, my wonderful IR, Janet, thought that although the action moved, the characters didn’t grow (she said this more kindly than my depiction).

After a secret pout, my thinking went as: I think it’s okay. But I really respect Janet’s opinion. Maybe this is a novel where the characters regress rather than grow. If so, I don’t have to do anything. But I really respect Janet’s opinion.

I finally decided to devote a week to see if there was anything to her comments. And damned if there wasn’t! I realized that my characters were more acted upon (by the close calls and roadblocks, etc.) than acting. I was basically pushing the characters around to meet the needs of the plot.

The revamp provided a novel I was much more satisfied with.

Where do you find an Ideal Reader?

Can be almost anyone. Typically, they like to read and in the genre you are writing. That is, don’t ask a romance fanatic to read your scifi just because you are great friends. You try for someone who tends to the analytic. Otherwise, all you’ll get it is “Oh, it’s great.”

The next post covers an IR’s care and feeding.

(And no, you can’t have my fabulous IR’s coordinates. Get your own.)