Ideal readers and ideal characters

typewriterSometimes writers are asked to imagine their ideal reader and to write for that person.

My ideal reader is smarter than I am — so how do I write in a way that’s smarter than I am? I have a technique that I think works: I try to make the prose more intelligent with every edit. If I edit enough times, I can outdo myself.

My ideal character, the kind of person I like to write about, is someone better than me. William Faulkner defined that person in his speech when he received the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature:

“ …the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself … make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat … the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed — love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.

“ … The poet’s, the writer’s duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

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