Author Dan Balow

Imagining Your Reader

Most mass communication originates in solitude.

Before delivering a public speech, pressing the Post button on a text-based article or blog, delivering an audio podcast or webinar, or taping a video, the creator of the material sits alone and ponders what they will communicate.

During this alone time, a content creator should also be thinking of an audience. For authors, since you are rarely present when your book is read, imagining a reader is difficult.

Or at least it should be.

If you find it easy to imagine your audience, then you are likely homogenizing individuals into a stereotypical mass audience, which is not an audience at all. There is no such thing as a book for everyone, just like there isn’t a book for all women, men or teens, except for the Bible–and that needed divine inspiration from the Holy Spirit.

For the mortals among us, the only effective way to write is to imagine a very specific audience and write to them.

Example of This Concept

If a guest speaker comes to your church, they deliver a well-organized and rehearsed presentation which is good in many ways, except for one. It is a generic message the speaker could deliver at any church, on a variety of occasions, and probably has. It’s an all-of-you message.

But when your pastor or another home-grown speaker stands in front of your church, they see specific people they know personally. Their words are for that particular group. It’s an all-of-us message, which is far better, as it shows the speaker knows the audience.

Both types of communication have their place, but the best speakers, just like the best writers, tailor their message for the audience. They make their listeners or readers feel like the message is just for them, and the way this starts is by imagining a specific reader.

When you are afraid of missing someone, you miss everyone. This happens when aiming too wide.

Imagine Your Reader

Think of one person you know by name who would benefit from your writing.

Think of one person in Scripture by name who is most like your target audience.

Use some technique to continually remind you of both people throughout your writing process, whatever works for you.

Write to them.

NOTE: This is an exercise to keep you focused during the writing process. You don’t name someone in your book unless it is appropriate!

Final Note about Audience

I know many authors want their Christian-message books read by unbelievers. But writing for unbelievers makes you guilty of the same stereotyping mentioned above, which is rarely effective. The recommendation to name a person still holds.

Maybe this isn’t a problem for you, but it is always a good idea to check your compass occasionally to see if you are still headed in the right direction.

Thinking of a specific person you are writing to is simply good discipline, keeping you focused, aware, and human.

After all, every reader of your book has a name.

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