Who Is the Audience?

One time I was somewhere when someone asked me a question about something (can’t recall those details), and I promptly gave a correct response.

“Wow,” she commented.  “It’s impressive you remembered that.”

(Yes, I sense the irony to the above content.)

My reply:  “I just used a mnemonic device.”

She gave me one of those quizzical looks.  “I’ve never even heard of that word before.”

Not everybody takes psychology in high school, which is where I first learned of the mnemonic device and how to use it.  The term stuck with me because I do rely on it quite a bit to retain information.  Yes, if I’m unable to write down a grocery list for milk, bread, mustard, and hot dogs, I envision a hot dog squatting next to a loaf of bread and milking out mustard.

(Trust me, the more bizarre the imagery, the easier it is to remember.)

The point is I used a word I took for granted, and presented someone with a new experience.  It’s not uncommon for writers to have a broad vocabulary, and those within certain genres will be familiar with which terms their readers will recognize that others might not understand.

In sci-fi, you could logically expect the audience can process verbiage like warp, terraforming, and cryogenics.  Horror readers are unlikely to recoil when they stumble upon sanguine, apparition, and charnel.  And mystery lovers will have the deduced the meanings of alibi, forensics, and modus operandi.

Overall, knowing your audience can help hone writing in more ways than what vocabulary to use.  What readers expect can guide writers with polishing that protagonist, reaching a brilliant dénouement, or shining light upon that motif.

Hmm, maybe it would be a good idea to explain those writing terms in a future post.  But how to go about remembering to do that?  Perhaps I could envision some dude looking at a calendar when a light bulb pops on overhead, and then he can squirt mustard out of it … wait, that’s not right….

 

MIA and Other Acronyms

Yes, I know I’ve been Missing in Action lately, but instead of explaining the reasons why, this seems like a good time to discuss acronyms.

They can be a ticklish element to use in writing.  There are some acronyms that are pretty universally known, like ASAP or OK.  We even have words some people might not realize are acronyms, like scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus).  And when texting started getting a foothold in how folks communicated, other word groupings became “abbreviated” to make that process faster.

(Note:  I’m old enough to remember when LOL meant Lots of Love.  When it morphed into Laughing Out Loud, I went through a period of confusion.  This can present one of the pitfalls of acronyms.)

But the difference between writing and texting is kind of like the difference between a chicken and a chickadee.  One of them takes a lot more work and investment than the other.

It’s best to save the well-known usages for dialogue if that’s how the characters are going to speak.  If they’re military personnel, who have a tendency to speak in Acronyese, you’re going to have to find ways to explain what those darn letters stand for.

In general you can get away with using an acronym once without an introduction, but you’d better plan on explaining it by the very next paragraph.  It’s more common to introduce the whole word series, like Intellectual Militant Prototype, and soon thereafter render it as IMP so that readers don’t lose track of what that’s supposed to mean.

And that leads me to another little pitfall I’ve noticed:  Even if you purposefully have an acronym spell out another word, there is no 100% guarantee everybody will read it that way.  In my End of an Age series, I wanted the future version of a cell phone to be called something else, and since it would be necessary for Personal Identification and Transaction, it was referred to as a PIT phone.

The word pit was also meant to be metaphorical, but occasionally I would hear somebody call it a P-I-T phone.  The same goes for IMP (imp is also meant to be metaphorical) mentioned above.  Maybe it takes more letters, like in scuba, for some folks to want to say it as a word, but it’s not a detail worth ruffling one’s feathers about….

That should be sufficient for now.  Despite the SNAFU I encountered over the last few weeks that made me go AWOL, I figured the next post should get out PDQ before the FBI put out an APB….  LOL!