No matter our genre, we are fiction writers, making up this character of the Imaginary Audience (who is not present in the space and time in which we actually write).*
This imaginary conversation will impact our writing experience: the degree or nature of that impact is really up to us. For some people, this imaginary conversation is part of the fun; for others, it is a hindrance because the Imaginary Reader makes them self-doubt, erase, delete, backtrack, or altogether not start.
Here is a technique to deal with a tricky audience. It highlights how much imaginative work we put into our fake conversations. Once you get your Caricature, whenever you find yourself hesitating, pull it out of your mental pocket and take a good look at it. Remind yourself that the Present moment is wonderfully vacant and open--free of such imaginary creatures.
I suggest first taking notes to the prompts and then compiling them into full sentences. The making of a paragraph will help you reflect and gain insights into your relationship with the tricky audience. Ask yourself, what do these details and images possibly symbolize about my relationship to this Reader? For instance, the fact that her nose turns red like a stove burner: could I be worried about my Reader's anger?
1. Think of an occasion where you had to write something.
2. You start to visualize someone—maybe a group of people—having a judgment or opinion about this piece of writing you’re about to start.
3. This person appears in your room.
4. What does his or her face look like? Make their head very large, like a caricature. Then describe their body as very tiny. Make their clothing absurd—maybe too small.
5. Exaggerate some ugly feature on their face.
6. They start to say something to you about your writing. What’s the first sentence they say?
7. They have an ulterior motive for what they’re saying. What is it?
8. You notice on this person’s right shoulder is a tiny figure of someone who has bothered them about their own writing: the person you’re caricaturing has a tricky audience of their own in the past. Who is it? How has that tiny person impacted your own tricky audience?
9. Something strange happens to the next sentence they say. Distort some part of it. Make it ludicrous, unreasonable. What is it?
10. They get frustrated. What do they do next?
11. Let another sentence come from their mouth. Have it also go out of their control.
12. Add a few details about their face, expressions, as they change as this keeps happening.
13. Put this person in some sort of container. What sort? Describe.
14. Something disgusting or scary is also at the bottom of the container: what is it?
15. Now what are you going to do with the container?**
* We evoke or create this Reader, as theorists such as Walter Ong, Lisa Ede, and Andrea Lunsford have pointed out.
** The possible extreme fate of the container is something I picked up from Ann Lamott.