My husband is a big fan of action movies. Loves them. One of his favorites is Live Free or Die Hard. I’ve never seen it (nor will I, most likely), but he tells me with great delight that in that movie, the main character John McClane (Really? John McClane?), played by Bruce Willis, drives a burning police cruiser, trying to get away from a bad guy shooting at him from a helicopter. McClane aims the cruiser toward a toll booth and jumps out. The car runs up the booth and launches into the pursuing helicopter as the bad guy jumps from the sky.
I’m reaching for the remote control. I never gave it a chance in a theater. If the writers had sent that script to me, I would have told them that the action is unrealistic. It reminds me of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. But so what? According to IMDb, Live Free or Die Hard made nearly $135 million in the USA alone in the theaters, without counting other countries or residuals. It’s a worldwide hit, and it’s been nominated for and won multiple US and worldwide awards, including awards for best stunts. Apparently, running a car up a toll booth and into a helicopter appeals to a lot of people.
And it’s actually possible. See the physics here.
The thing is, the writers of Live Free or Die Hard did not write that film for me. They wrote it for my husband. They wrote it for all the action film lovers like him. I was never going to like it, so they didn’t worry about me. They knew their audience, they wrote for their audience, and it’s a hit.
Most writers only write for themselves. That’s okay. Writing is therapeutic and creative. You don’t have to share. But when someone tells me that publication is their goal, one of the first things I ask is, “Who is this for?” Almost every non-published writer answers, “Everyone. Anyone.” That is a problem.
Not everyone will read what you write. When you write, you need to have a specific reader in mind. One person. Who is it? What do you want that reader to experience? If you don’t have the answer, your writing is not focused enough.
Trying to please everyone sucks out that unique thing–the you in your writing–that can make it the most appealing. Imagine if the writers of the Die Hard movies worried about people like me and cut out all the unrealistic scenes. Who would watch that?
That is not to say that you shouldn’t care what anyone thinks. Some writers say that if people can’t handle what they write, that’s not their problem. When you write for yourself, anything goes. Art has no boundaries. Journal free. When you write for others though, you need to care about others. If your specific reader is highly religious, for example, don’t write a string of profanities in the bad guy’s dialogue, even if that’s realistic. Find another way to say what you want to express. Write hard.
Some people will never like what I have to say. But so what? I’m not writing for them. I’m writing for you.
Do you know your reader? Do you keep a journal? How do you decide what to share and what to keep to yourself? And can you believe this stunt?