Copyright Adobe Stock. Rome Map Detail; selective focus By Jules_KitanoIn col­lege I was for­tu­nate enough to trav­el with a school-spon­sored group to Europe. I saw many amaz­ing things, but Rome was the place I couldn’t stop talk­ing about afterwards.

When I described my love for Rome to my par­ents, I focused on one par­tic­u­lar episode: Want­i­ng to escape the after­noon heat, a group of us ducked inside one of the church­es that crop up every­where in that city. Inside this unre­mark­able build­ing, I dis­cov­ered the orig­i­nal of a paint­ing that had been my favorite out of my entire art his­to­ry text­book. It was just hang­ing there on the wall, not even wor­thy of a locked door in a city that is crammed full of exquis­ite artworks.

I used a dif­fer­ent anec­dote when talk­ing to my friends. I described the mul­ti-hour din­ner a group of us enjoyed, com­plete with a dif­fer­ent wine for every course, and how we fol­lowed it up with a long mid­night stroll through what seemed like the entire city of Rome, becom­ing com­plete­ly lost, and prob­a­bly by pure luck man­ag­ing to even­tu­al­ly make it back to our hotel in one piece.

Here’s an impor­tant reminder for your writ­ing stu­dents: when they are telling a sto­ry using a char­ac­ter speak­ing in first-per­son voice (the “I” voice), the character/narrator’s intend­ed audi­ence will play a key role. In oth­er words, at some point the writer should ask, “What ‘audi­ence des­ti­na­tion’ does the nar­ra­tor intend? Who does my char­ac­ter imag­ine will read their sto­ry?” That aware­ness of audi­ence will shape many things, par­tic­u­lar­ly how hon­est the nar­ra­tor choos­es to be, and what kind of pri­vate details they choose to share.

Do they imag­ine that there will be no out­side read­ers (such as in a “Dear Diary” for­mat)? Or does the nar­ra­tor imag­ine they are telling their sto­ry to com­plete strangers? Know­ing the answer to that ques­tion, in com­bi­na­tion with the per­son­al­i­ty the writer has estab­lished for the nar­ra­tor, will affect how the sto­ry is told.

Case in point: when I knew my par­ents were the audi­ence, I chose a Rome sto­ry set at mid­day, in a church, fea­tur­ing a Great Work of Art. I DIDN’T choose the Rome sto­ry set at mid­night, on dark streets, fea­tur­ing a group of wine-slop­py col­lege students.

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David LaRochelle
7 years ago

This is great advice, Lisa, that I can use on the sto­ry that I am work­ing on now!