Writer’s Guide: Know Your Audience

A basic piece of advice for all writers is to know their audience. In order to reach someone, you need to have a conception of their interests, their motivations, their knowledge, and their prejudices. Whether it’s writing a note to your friend, or writing for a workshop class, or writing a text message that your mobile carrier will copy into a law enforcement database, the same principles apply.

Starbucks Coffee

Starbucks Coffee (Rudolf Schuba, Flickr)

It’s good to have a routine for writing. Sit somewhere where all you do is write, buy your favourite cup of coffee, and turn the wi-fi off on your laptop so that the hidden keyloggers don’t transmit all those aborted sentences to government keyword-monitoring servers. If there’s one thing worse than a publisher not understanding your vision, it’s a counter-terrorism unit paying you a visit at 3am! Ha-ha!

Once you get in the habit of writing for a particular audience, it becomes effortless. When you write a heartfelt message to your loved ones, you’ll automatically consider the effect your word and phrase choices will have on you, your spouse, your children, and the RCMP officers assigned to your file.

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Why we shouldn’t force ourselves to forget Justin Bourque

Sun News Network not to use Justin Bourque's name

Sun News Network not to use Justin Bourque’s name (Tweet by National Newswatch)

We should remember the officers and their stories. Their names were David Ross, Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, and Douglas James Larche.

But we shouldn’t apologize for being interested in Justin Bourque and his story. After all, he is the person who did the shooting, therefore the story of why and how this shooting took place is much more in Justin Bourque’s story, and hardly at all in the officers’ stories. Yes, tell the stories of the officers, respect them and honour them. But this isn’t necessarily a zero-sum game. Honouring the officers does not necessitate obliterating Bourque from our consciousness. There is plenty of airspace.

Fortunately and unfortunately, there is only one Justin Bourque. I say unfortunately because it’s hard to do science on a sample size of one. We can do no better than to have hunches or guess at what events led to the behaviour, as people and their behaviours are absurdly complex. But erasing him is counterproductive, self-defeating. While it’s not going to be easy or even necessarily possible to come to any useful, potentially falsifiable conclusions, erasing the information will ensure that it’s impossible to do so. For now, let’s save everything. We don’t have to stare at it, no, but that’s something that should be up to us as individuals.

It’s almost… almost! like some elements of the Great Media Machine are trying to grift us with Three-card Monte. The money card might be there somewhere, but we’re encouraged to turn up distractions. But I’m not quite cynical enough to believe that Sun News Network doesn’t believe that what they’re doing is in the broader public interest.

Some people think Justin Bourque did this at least partly for the notoriety, and maybe that’s a factor. But looking at his Facebook will tell you that he must be at least slightly ideologically motivated. And either way, notoriety or ideology, we still give a shit about stuff like this not happening. We must not let our retributive don’t-give-him-what-he-wanted tendencies to lead us to cut off our noses to spite our faces.

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