Who do you write for?
Kurt Vonnegut apparently once said,
“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”
Now I can’t swear by that quotation but it’s an interesting one to ponder.
Who do I write for? Which reader is the one I want to please, lest my story get sick?
I realized that my audience of one is my father. Dad is a well-educated veteran who worked in business for decades and raised with our mother us five hellions. Erudite and sophisticated, he has always loved music, opera, travel, and has a knack for languages. Latin and Hungarian of all things.
Dad is a soft-hearted soul with the romantic heart—what hair-raising operatic scenes I’ve sat beside him for (seductions and wedding nights, Faustian bargains and Salome’s dance, Oh my!) He rolls his eyes at the melodramatic, cheers the heroic, keeps hoping for the luckless, smiles and applauds for the lovers. And, loves the composers, musicians and singers for their incomparable talents.
He’s a practical man, too. Raised by faith-filled, hard-working parents in a loving environment, he worked from an early age and learned how to do all sorts of things. Need something fixed? I called Dad. Have a worry? Ask Dad. Making a decision. Dad was always filled with good sense.
He has always been devoted to our mother and us, all now grown with children of our own…Someday he’ll be a great grandfather, just not yet. He has never raised his voice at us, our spouses or our children, though he can cuss like a sailor on the sailboat, named aptly enough for his children. I’ve never seen anyone who loves sailing like Dad. But it can drive him crazy, too. Or maybe it was his crew…
He’s kind, always quick with a friendly gesture, a pleasant remark, at the very least a smile. He’s easy to get laughing but he can take serious moments very seriously. A quiet, shy man, he always attracts a gaggle of friends. People like to be around my father. I know I do.
So why do I write for Dad? Because of those operas with their shocking stories and sweeping arias. For the romance in his soul that makes him stop breathing during violin solos. For all my tortured English essays he read and Spelling assignments he checked back in school. For his voracious reading, deep life experiences. For his own way of telling us stories all our lives.
Dad has style, good taste, good manners, a discerning eye and ear. He’ll tell me what he likes and what he doesn’t like in my stories.
Now in his 90s, Dad has macular degeneration. He won’t read this post because he really can’t see it all that well. Nor can he read my books. But he “reads” by way of audio books all the time. Stories keep him company during quiet moments in the day and at restless moments at night.
I record my books for him and him alone. They aren’t great. I’ve read extraordinary audiobooks, The Dutch House, read by Tom Hanks, The Hate U Give, read by Bahni Turpin and Winter Solstice, read by Jilly Bond. My reading hardly comes close.
When I recorded Divided Loyalties, he read it twice. The second time, he said he was reading a book by his favorite author.
I recorded Love Letters & Gingerbread, my Annapolis Christmas story, and technical difficulties made it impossible to hear. But today he told me he got it to work on his laptop.
I also recorded a short story, Amity Street, the meeting of two ghosts from different eras who lived and died on the Baltimore street where Edgar Allan Poe lived. It got a mixed review. Kind of an odd story, Dad said. But he liked the characters once he figured it all out.
Deep in the weeds of editing my two latest novels, I didn’t get any recordings done in time for Christmas this year. I hang my head in shame. After all, I did record my pandemic romance, Falling in Love While Working From Home, just in case I had followers who would prefer an audio book to reading. All I have to do is move it to CDs for Dad. By Valentines Day, I promise, Dad. I owe you my two new novels, too. Maybe I’ll have them done by Easter.
That’s who I write for. Who do you write for?