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I want you to ask yourself how many messages you've been bombarded with since you woke up this morning.
The first one was probably your alarm, giving you the signal to start your day. If you're like me, you had to receive this message several times before you took action on it. Then your bare feet may have received a message in the form of that autumnal nip, and you knew it would be a 'proper shoes' kind of day.
If you were unlucky, there may have been an unpleasant, impossible to ignore message of pain as you stood on a Lego brick left there by a precious offspring. Your belly may well have been sending you rumbling messages. The dog/cat may have been echoing this sentiment in his expecting message to you, the kids have given you a 'message' in the form of dirty clothes left in the bathroom, and your own brain is warning you of the shoes left in perfect trip hazard position at the top of the staircase.
All these messages and you've barely even opened your eyes.
Then along comes someone, at some point in your day, wanting you to read their story online, support their blog, buy their book, care about their characters or about what happened to them.
You've already been hit by thousands of messages – ads for brands and products, noises in the street which tell you what's going on and stop you getting run down, requests in work, people who want your attention, and so on and on.
You've been filtering these messages the entire time you've been awake. Your subconscious has been working away, picking out the most urgent messages and shoving them under the nose (so to speak) of your conscious brain. The more relevant, interesting, important the message, the higher up the priority list it is filed.
…Now someone wants you to read a story about the time they went to the beach.
How much notice will you pay? If you're not busy, you might have a look, if you are interested in that type of story or if you are especially fond of the person who has shared the link with you. You might mentally file it away for later – and later, probably forget to look. Or you might completely ignore the link because you can't see anything in it for you. Even if the writer is one of your best friends, you just might not be interested.
That is human nature. We act on things because we see something in it for us. It might be entertainment, enlightenment, feeling good about ourselves, the sense of having gained knowledge of a secret. There will always be something in it for ourselves, though. We rarely take action in an altruistic manner.
Flip this around now.
You have written a story you want to be read. Maybe it's about the time you went to the beach, or it's a novel about a lawyer who uncovers a political plot, or whatever kind of story you write. Ask yourself what the audience will get out of reading it.
Ask yourself whether you would spend time, effort or money on it, if you were in the position of your audience. Have you created something that other people will actively want to read or have you created something that people won't take any notice of?
I'm not trying to put you off writing stories. If you write them because you enjoy the activity and like reading them back, that's fine. This doesn't really apply to you.
But if you want to have people hanging on your every word, build up a fan base, get a traditional publishing deal and all the rest of it, there is one simple truth to accept:
The world does not owe you (or me) an audience.
This applies to all writers; the struggling ones, the getting-there ones and the famous ones.
Just because one of us has written a novel or our personal story, loving crafting it for years, does not mean that a single person has a duty to read it. It is up to us to engage them, in the way we tell that story.
How to find that elusive audience, then?
Appeal to their imagination. Make the story irresistible to them in the same way a fabulous film transports people to another world. Let them experience the story the way you or your character experienced it. Don't dictate emotions and interpretations. Let your audience make the story their own...
In my new book, I help you do exactly that. Available as Kindle ebook and paperback.