Consider Your Audience

Whose attention do you crave?

Getting others’ (positive) attention is what 90% of life is about even if we deny it. Going to school to learn how to live effectively in society has the endgame goal of gaining others’ positive attention–at the very least, in that we will not be arrested and thrown into prison (a negative attention result). The programmer who becomes a hermit to code a software game of his/her dreams that others will play cuts himself off from convivial society for the future positive benefits of gaining others’ attention.

Some people mistakenly think that by being mean or authoritarian, the attention gained will increase their value. These individuals have a grand sense of self-worth, which might be altered if they were to consider how insignificant their presence is to the happiness of others. They may argue that the happiness of society is a hollow value, but they are wrong. Without happiness, or at least the contentment of society, chaos reigns. (Chaos is also about getting attention but in the form of fury and despair.)

Writers are intensely aware of the need to get others’ attention. As W. Somerset Maugham once put it, a writer understands that without gaining attention, the reader will not move from the first paragraph to the second (and the writing fails). Choice of methods for shaping those paragraphs to attract attention will chisel out various audiences. The best method is the one that appeals to the widest number of readers, leading to one of the first considerations writers must face at the outset of a project: who will care?

Naturally, the writer must care or no one else will.

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