When you write a story who are you writing for?

“Well, I’m writing it so people can read it.”

What people? And why should they read it?

It’s not easy to get people to sit down and read a story or a book. These days people, especially young people, want something quick and easily understood. So why should they sit and take time from a busy life to read what you’ve written?

They will take the time if you grab them emotionally right away. If they have to know what happens to the character you’ve just introduced him to. You grab them by your title, your first line, your first paragraph. If not, it’s goodbye, sayonara, adios.

They will not stick around if they sense that you are trying to impress them or teach them. They will not stick around to try to find out more about a boring character. They will not stick around to wade through long paragraphs of exposition.

I try not to write the story for “people”. People are an anonymous bunch. I have no idea what “people” are thinking, feeling or doing.

You, for instance. What’s on your mind? What are you happy about? Worried about? If 100 people read this I get 100 different answers in addition to yours. So how can I write for “people” when all of them are different and have different thoughts and emotions?

I write for a friend. When I have a story or article taking shape in my mind I think about who – among my friends and family – will most enjoy reading this. Then I write it as if I’m telling it to that one person. One person, singular, not people plural.

Telling it to that one person makes it more personal and more immediate. And somehow this makes people, plural, pick up on the pleasure I have in sharing it. It gives my story an extra boost into the life of the reader.

No, not everyone will “get it”. But more people will get it and will enjoy it just as that one friend would. So I try to write as if just for one special person.

And if you’ve read this far, that one person is you.