For the most part, my husband is supportive of my writing aspirations. I know he hates the time writing takes away from the family, but he bought me my writing desk (aka laptop) and it’s been my faithful companion since. He may be one of my biggest cheerleaders, but he will never be my ideal reader—the person I write for.
I first learned the term “Ideal Reader” from Stephen King’s On Writing. In it, he says:
“He or she [ideal reader] is going to be in your writing room all the time: in the flesh once you open the door and let the world back in to shine on the bubble of your dream, in spirit during the sometimes troubling and often exhilarating days of the first draft, when the door is closed.”
"I.R. will help you get outside yourself a little, to actually read your work in progress as an audience would while you're still working. This is perhaps the best way of all to make sure you stick to story, a way of playing to the audience even while there's no audience there and you're totally in charge."
I have two great friends who I strive to make wince, laugh, or cry as I write. I love those girls, but I don’t want them to know too much about my w.i.p. until I’m finished. So, the only option to bounce ideas off is my husband. The trouble is he doesn’t like reading. He’s a doer not a sitter. He grows impatient with idleness.
I’ve been stuck trying to finish my project from NaNoWriMo, so I thought maybe he could help.
“Can I run some ideas by you?” I bit my lip and glanced over to the TV. My husband was watching ESPN highlights or lowlights, I’m not sure, but he looked a bit tense.
“About your book?”
The lack of interest oozed from his pores, but he managed a half smile.
“Yeah, but if you’re busy.”
He turned off the TV and faced me. “Sure, go ahead just fast forward to the parts with boobs.”
I withheld my eye roll. “I don’t write those kinds of stories.”
Perhaps, I was pressing my luck by continuing, but I needed help. The goof in front of me was my only option. I rambled on about my story, and he stared back at me nodding. He looked genuinely interested. Wow, he was really listening. Excitement slithered through my body. I’ve been stuck for days and now, I just may be able to get back into it.
“So what do you think? Should I keep going in this direction or is it not suspenseful enough?”
“Well”—he sat upright and scratched his head—“you lost me somewhere between the cabin and the policeman.”
“Cabin? There isn’t a cabin in my story, and I’m not sure if I said anything about a policeman.”
“A shack, I mean,” he said.
“The shack was in my last novel.”
“Oh, I liked the shack. You could bring in another shack.”
I didn’t know what to say; I just stared.
“So, no shack. Okay, what if you have Courtney—”
“Yeah, Chelsea . . . you could have Chelsea turn evil in the end. That would be a surprise.”
“That would.” I'm not sure if he realized the cause of my flat expression. I reached to the ottoman, grabbed the remote, and clicked on his game. “Thanks for the help.” I stood and inched past him. He patted my butt on my way by and smiled. I turned around wondering if he thought he was actually helpful or if he just played me. Either way, he just got out of any future plotting sessions and I’m more stuck than before.Do you have an ideal reader? Is your spouse or significant other yours?