The Autistic Writer: An Ideal Reader

Author’s are often advised to identify their “ideal reader.”

This aids in both writing and marketing one’s work. In flux but with largely consistent set of traits, an ideal reader is a fictional focal presence within and throughout an opus of work.

And they are not random, or shouldn’t be. An author’s ideal reader should be the result of said author’s careful consideration, study, experimentation, and of course imagination. Some author’s I have read about have the delightful tradition of given their ideal reader a name, to make them more real.

Me? I have no names, but yes, I’ve pondered my own ideal reader. However, (and forgive the redundancy), so far my concept of an ideal reader is less than, well, ideal.

I don’t mean I am writing for an audience of unideal people. I mean my attempts to conceptualize the ideal reader of my fiction have had mixed results. I am aware of such, but as one looking up at it on a mountaintop from a valley, or through a drifting fog. Indistinct.

Once again, my place on the Autism Spectrum at times muddies this water.

Reading and understanding all of the cues and intentions and motivation of real people I encounter comes as a challenge oftentimes. Autistic Folks 101. And because an ideal reader is not a full on character in one of my stories, the requisite level of realism slips somewhat through my fingers. That is because, despite some improvement, I still struggle with perceiving what speaks to whom.

I have identified types of people in real life that seemed like suitable templates for my ideal reader archetype, for a time. As is often the case, however, I appear not to have adequately judged their similarity with me. Ergo, I likely have misplaced them as an ideal reader of my fiction.

Or not, as they case may be. That is the irony; some of the real people I have considered ideal readers may in fact be so, and I don’t recognize it without direct confirmation in some way. That too is a common step in the ASD tango. Yet when it comes to being wrong about ideal readers, or being unaware that I’m right, the result is essentially the same: uncertainty.

And because it isn’t yet complex enough, the audience for each of my books isn’t the same. (Picking and staying in a single fiction genre lane is a topic for another post.)

But, for both fun and information, I will describe, to the best I have considered so far, an ideal reader of Ty Unglebower fiction, painted in broad strokes.

I am a cis male, but it feels like my ideal reader is a woman. Which is odd, because I don’t address women’s issues particularly in my fiction. I think this is because the quotations and visions of creative arts that have spoken most to me have come from female artists/writers, though of course plenty of men think the same way.

This ideal woman reader enjoys language, but not at the expense of story. Probably not your standard English professor/Nobel laureate reader. Someone wanting a little extra in a novel, but knows more words than they use or expect others to use.

Realistic and memorable characters matter most to her.

So probably a classic “bookworm.” I write novels that on some level are “bookworm” material, even though I can’t sharpen that definition.

She is quiet, contemplative, not easily manipulated. A reader that wants to get totally lost in a story. Someone that seeks out fiction they will be thinking about when they are not reading.

And for those wondering, no, my ideal reader isn’t necessarily a fellow Autistic. This entire article series is about how my Autism influences my work as a writer, but nothing about my work is designed specifically with Autistic people in mind. (Though, as I have mentioned, I have written one Autistic protagonist so far.)

My author tagline is “I shift the everyday a few inches.” My ideal reader will seek out that shift, explore it, enjoy it in fiction and in life, ponder it and dance with it, but never walk out distracted into traffic because of it.

She drinks tea over coffee, wears those long sweaters librarians often have, with the drawstrings. She considers the crushing or curtailing of the imagination, at any age, among the cruelest and least forgivable human crimes.

She wants to believe in magic, usually does, even if she doesn’t see it, but is always ready to see it. On rare occasion, she may actually see it after all.

And she tries to be better for it, and make others better for it, by advocating always for the essence and power of story and play.

All this kind of stuff matters to her. And to me. Though I welcome any reader that is interested in my novels, I hope most of all “she” finds them, even if I have no idea where she is or how to market to her.

Perhaps she’s you?

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