Thursday, January 26, 2012

Know Your Audience--Writing Tip

We took six of our children to see comedian Brian Regan last night. I have to tell you, my sides still hurt this morning from laughing so hard. He is so funny! He takes something so ordinary and then shares his observations about it. Like marching bands. And riding on the back of a motorcycle. And airports.

The thing I probably liked best about last night is that we were there as a family. I knew the show would be appropriate for any age and we had so much fun together. Then, in the car afterward, we could quote the jokes and laugh about it again. It was a great family memory.

You see, Brian Regan taps a family audience. He has said in interviews that he doesn't intentionally do it, but he's just a clean comedian.

The article explains, "Regan doesn’t give the “clean comic” label a big, warm embrace because it was never a deliberate decision to target clean-leaning audiences. He’s not “Mr. Wholesome,” he says, and he can’t claim to have never told a joke with a four-letter word. He’s simply focused on humor that interests him — and it happens to be clean.

Regan had a validating experience recently when a friend from college gave him an old tape of the two performing a mock interview where they each played a character — filmed long before Regan had any aspirations of being a comedian. As he watched, he notice his friend taking the conversation in a darker, dirtier direction. Regan noticed himself steering it back to the more “absurd, conceptual kind of stuff.”

“And it interested me listening to this stuff, going, ‘Wow, that was my instinct even before I knew I wanted to be a comedian,’” he said. “So it comforted me to think, ‘Well, alright, then I’m going after my true path. It isn’t like I’ve chosen this for career reasons. I’ve chosen it because it’s what interests me.’ It was very gratifying to listen to that.” (You can read the entire article here)

The thing that caught my eye was the last paragraph when he talked about going after his true path and knowing his "instinct" or voice. I think as writers, that's what we're looking for as well. The genre you lean toward, the subjects you're interested in, that's what affects you as a writer. You develop and hone writing skills so that you can provide the rich stories and characters that are bubbling inside of you. But, until you find your voice, sometimes that can be difficult.

I was asked once if I would ever write something other than suspense. Of course I didn't say no, I can't rule anything out, but suspense is what interests me. That's what I write currently and I write it because it's my passion. It's what I love. And if I listen to those who like my writing, I'm pretty good at it. (I know, I know, I can improve, but sometimes I like to believe what I hear.) Suspense is my favorite kind of books, my favorite kind of TV shows, I just love the genre. And it's always been that way. So I like to think that I've found my true path, my instinct, and because of that, it's a little easier to know exactly where to start in honing my craft for the appropriate audience.

So, while I'm not leaving everyone laughing, I hope that in some sense, I'm like Brian Regan, in that I can tap into my audience and use my writing skills to get the adrenaline pumping enough that my readers are racing to the end and glad they read my story when they're done.

Do you know feel like you know your path? And, out of curiosity for the funny people of the earth, have you listened to Brian Regan before?


Melanie Goldmund said...

Lately, in my darkest hours, I've been wondering if I know my path at all.

Debra Erfert said...

No, I've never heard of Brian Regan, but from your description, I'd really like to hear his comedy. I agree with you about writing what you enjoy. Like, I can't write YA. I can read it only if I have to, but, frankly, I don't enjoy it all that much. Middle school stuff is the same way, so really, I'll never want to write it, I'm sure.

Melanie! Stop that this instant! Get out of the dark and put your feet on the path again. You are a Sci-fi writer. Everyone gets into a funk once in a while--where they have to claw their way up steep muddy walls, sliding back down some, before grabbing hold of a solid rock in which to climb out. It can get dirty, but whose afraid of a little soil? You are brilliant! Remember that!

Sarah Pearson said...

I haven't heard of Brian Regan, but I suspect I would rather like him.

I thought I knew my path, but lately I've started to suspect that it isn't the one I thought it was.

Melanie Goldmund said...

Awwww, thanks, Debra! Although when I read your question, "Who's afraid of a little soil," I found myself answering snarkily, "Those who are buried alive." *g*

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Melanie, I honestly think every writer goes through that. Often. It's sort of like driving through a bunch of tunnels---we're in the dark, hoping we're going the right way, until we burst through into the light.

I'm so glad we know each other and that we can support one another through this writing journey. Thanks for being so honest.

Debra, I really do think I find true joy in writing what I love. And you should totally try listening to Brian Regan. He's on Youtube if you're interested.

Sarah, are you doing a U-turn? :)