What are audience and authenticity?

Audience and authenticity are two concepts that are often mistaken for each other.

Audience is who you want to read your story. You typically make narrative choices based on what kind of stories the audience already knows, and what you envision a fresh story would look like for your ideal readers. Sometimes, you are the ideal reader you envision for yourself. Other times, your audience is large segments of people, whether that’s “fans of Supernatural,” “Chinese-Americans,” “disabled people”… the possibilities are endless, just like the narratives you can tell.

Authenticity, meanwhile, is a term readers use to apply to your work. That is, you are not in control of whether a story reads as authentic to people. You are, however, in control of whether you make efforts to add verisimilitude, or details that ring true to readers.

While authenticity can be a useful concept for some people, it’s not something you need to chase with your writing. The most important thing is to trust in your own voice and accept that readers may understand your story differently than you do. Of course, if something is so inauthentic that it causes more hurt than relief, like bad representation of marginalized people, it’s up to you to learn from your mistakes and do better next time.

Reading comprehension exercises

  1. Identify the target audience for one of your works in progress (WIPs).
  2. Pick three books, TV shows, games, and/or movies released in the past five years.
    1. Describe what you think the target audience for each story was.
    2. Identify the cues you used to come up with your answer.
  3. Pick a book you’ve read that resonated with you as an accurate depiction of an experience you’ve had, or of one of your identities.
    1. Identify details that made the narrative feel real to you.
    2. Identify any other techniques the author used to create a sense of verisimilitude.