When diving into the structure of storytelling, a consideration of one’s audience is perhaps one of the best places to begin. In general, there are three types of readers an author addresses implicitly or explicitly when engaging in storytelling:
- Actual audiences- The people who actually end up reading a piece. This is almost impossible to completely know.
- Authorial audiences- The hypothetical ideal audience the author imagines when laying out a piece. This is also a group the author has assumed will read their work with some sort of foreknowledge (historical, political, cultural, etc.) Often a best guess at what the “Actual Audience” will be.
- Narrative audiences- An imaginary audience for whom the narrator (not author) wishes they were speaking too.
For our purposes, numbers 1 and 2 are the most useful, but #3 is an interesting thing to play with when we assign a narrator (like Jane Bond, or Gumshoe). I mostly like this because it increases the “realness” of the narrator. Just as an author has an audience, so does the narrator.
I think this brings up questions of how an audience experiences what we write in all cases, but especially when it comes to storytelling. There’s a large body of work that shows that for an audience to experience a work as the author intended, they have to be a member of the authorial audience.
The only issue I have here, is that often the “authorial audience” can be a bit fuzzy around the edges. Defining the audience for a piece beyond basic demographics could be helpful.
All of which is to say, attention to the relationship among all the above audiences can help us to understand the tone we want to take, but also why certain pieces (or portions thereof) simply don’t work.