Monday, May 19, 2014

Writing for Universal Appeal: sort of a book review

Back in the day (and this is even before my day, hard as that seems), shoppers went from shop to shop buying what they needed. They went to the butcher to buy their fresh meat, they bought their vegetables from the open-air farmer's market, they went to the dry goods store to buy whatever dry goods are. They didn't go to one mega-mart to buy everything they needed, they went to the place that specialized in what they were looking for.

Today, in the era of Wal-mart and other super-centers, the general public wants to buy everything on their list at one place. Which is sad as mom and pop shops are going out of business because they can't compete.

Yet, as a struggling writer, I hear over and over again that you must write to a specific target audience, that a writer cannot be all things to all people. But I want to reach everyone! Isn't that what a best-seller is? Yes, I know that best-sellers reach target audiences too, but I don't think you can sell enough books to that specific group of readers with an interest in wearing two different sneakers to work on Thursdays to make it on any best-sellers lists.

Oh, was that too specific? So how does a writer know if their niche is big enough or small enough? Must I call in Goldilocks to get it just right?

I just finished reading "The Deer on theBicycle: Excursions into the Writing of Humor" by Patrick McManus. I loved that book. I thought it was great and I think a wide range of people would think it was great.

The premise was that Pat was writing a book on writing and getting published. So obviously, this was a book geared towards writers. Maybe.

Mr. McManus made his name writing for magazines such as Sport Illustrated and Outdoor Life. Not magazines I usually frequent. But as he says in “Deer”, if you can write a story with universal appeal, go for it, probably, you should strive for it.

So what happened to the “writers must specialize” theory? I think, if at all possible, what you write should be directed to several different groups instead of writing something so general that it has no specific genre. Such as in his book.

It may be touted as written for writers, but the many humorous stories which Pat shares cover groups from bicyclists to hunters to fisherman to those looking for the perfect getaway vacation. And I don’t care who you are, we all need to read stuff that just plain makes our cheeks hurt from laughing so hard.

I could be wrong, but that is my take on writing to a target audience. And you can take it or leave it. 

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