I have been doing a lot of reading, lately, about being a writer. Much of the reading has begun to show me how much of my writing (my ideas, my style, my genre) actually comes from outside of me instead of from me.
“What is he talking about?” You might ask…I am talking about where ideas come from and where they land.
It is becoming clear to me that many of my ideas are coming from my discourse community. I talked a little about this in my last two posts. The discourse community is basically the group of people I associate within the science fiction and fantasy genre. The people I talk to and bounce ideas off of and get feedback from. This is my discourse community. It also consists of the audience I am writing for. What my audience expects and what they will read. They are also a part of my discourse community. When I write, these are the people I think about. These are the people who will read my ideas and either appreciate them or discard them. An author/researcher names Amy Devitt said “form and content (and the related form and function, text and context), product and process, individual and society” all define what we write.
I know, the first thing I thought was “I am the writer. I am the one who decides what to put on paper. Why would Devitt (and many other researchers, by the way) say that the ideas are not coming from me. Well, think of it this way: We were raised a certain way. We have all these ideas and notions based on all these years that we were raised. We have all these influences that gave us messages of right and wrong, happy and sad and angry that we grew up with. All these ideas are part of who we are. Then, we started having our own opinions. We gain the ability to decide “I like Scifi. I don’t like history. I like historical fiction, though. I don’t like romance.” And on and on we began to receive ideas and notions from these communities about what was acceptable and unacceptable inside of these communities. So, the ideas that we have are our ideas, but they come from the influences of our upbringing and the crowd we choose to hang out with.
You might be thinking, “So what?”
The reason this is important is this: When we write, it is truly important to understand the audience we are writing for. We need to understand the community we are writing within. If we do not understand this, then our readership will ultimately be limited. And worse, without knowing this, our readership will likely discard our writing. To be relevant within our communities and to reach the people that we want to reach with our stories and our messages we have to be keenly aware of who we are writing for.
It kind of looks like this: we enter a group and begin to learn what that group is about. We decide…Ok, yeah, I want to be a part of this. I like the whole thing about a conflict between Superman and Batman. I want to see the Hulk take Loki by the foot and smack him around a bit. And so we dive in. We spend our time learning what it is to be a part of a community who likes the same things we do. We learn things that we should not do (No, The Joker should never die…that would be dumb, who would the Batman have to fight against?) We learn that creating an unbeatable hero with no flaws is boring. And so we write, thinking that we have created the ideas in our head.
Now, though, I hope it is becoming clear. We have our audience and our communities to thank for the way we write. They have shown us what they want and what they expect. They have shown us the boundaries we can push and those lines we should never cross. We need to thank our communities and remember that they are the reason we are writers.