Yesterday a fellow writer posed an interesting question in one of his newsletters. He said that in his points of view writers can be classified into three categories based on whom they’re writing for.
There are writers writing just for themselves (“I and I”). They have this enormous amount of stories they want to tell, the way they want to tell it. I think this is not meant to say that they don’t care about critics or reviewers: they will listen to any advice, but they will reject it if it doesn’t fit their point of view.
Some other writers (“Them alone”) write entirely with their readers in mind. They are the ones who always know what kind of stories the audience wants, and they usually have a very good style of writing and know every single rule to have a piece work in their genre or niche. The right tropes, the kind of arc people expect in that genre, all meshed together in a story that satisfies the audience.
And then there is a kind of synthesis of the two extremes: writers who know what they want to tell, but also know what to include to make it enjoyable for the reader.
I am not sure where I am right now on this spectrum, if I have to guess it I’d say somewhere between one and three, leaning more towards the one. The only certainty I have is that I started I was a full “I and I”, and I suspect I’ve moved a bit in the past few years but I can’t be sure. When he asked where did we put ourselves along that spectrum I said these exact words, but I’m not sure it was the right answer. I mean, it’s true that I’ve rounded a few edges in my writing to make it mode digestible to readers, and that I’m carefully listening to all the advice I can get from my betas, but am I really moving towards the category my pen pal Gilbert calls “I and them”? How much of “them” am I supposed to add to fit in that category?
The “I and them”, as it is introduced, seems like the undiscussed best, as it blends the unique perspective, style, and choices of the writer with a kind of “diplomacy” to have the story accepted by the audience. Also because, as the ancient Latins used to say, “In medio stat virtus“, meaning that the optimum lies somewhere between the extrema, not on either end of the spectrum. But to me, it looks like a solution way too simple.
It’s clear that we should put ourselves into the stories we write but we should also please our readers, so the “I and them” seem the best option. Case closed. But is it really so simple? I mean, are we sure that a story from an “I and I” writer who tries their best and manages to smooth it out is going to be better than it would be if the writer didn’t try so hard to please someone else?
This is not to say that the “I and them” approach doesn’t work, or that it’s not possible to blend self-expression with pleasing the audience. What I’m asking myself (and to you, of course) is whether it makes sense for a writer to try and change their own nature. To put it into mathematical terms (I know that as a writer I shouldn’t do that but whatever, I’m also a scientist), does a global maximum exist when it comes to writing?
This post feels like I’ve been saying a lot without saying anything, but it’s because my point of view could really be summed up quickly. What I’d really like to accomplish here is to get some insights into what my fellow writers and readers think about this matter. Because of my bottomless curiosity, of course, but also because I think it strictly links with concepts such as fan-service and fandoms, which are two terms that I plan to expand in a series of upcoming posts.
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