Forget your generalized audience…

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss six writing tips from novelist John Steinbeck….

It’s been several decades since I read East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1902-1968), pictured adjacent. I can barely remember it now, although I recall enjoying it at the time. And I remember renting the 1955 movie, starring James Dean, several years later.

Steinbeck is on my mind these days, thanks to an email from my friend and colleague Paul Schratz. He sent me a link to a blog containing Six Tips on Writing From John Steinbeck. To my surprise, I agree with them all.

The two tips that ring the truest to me, however, are:

Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one,

and,

If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

The tip about dialogue is particularly helpful and is something that corporate communicators (making up “quotes” from their bosses for press releases) would be especially wise to remember.