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AfriGeneas Writers Forum

Re: Report on the Southern Sources Symposium

George,

I share your reaction to Steven Stowe's awsome question, "How does my sense of who will read what I write shape what I write?" I actually find it helpful to mentally define my intended audience before I write something, not just because it helps me select a narrative style, but because it forces me to confront the content of my writing: what story am I trying to tell, and what message am I trying to send?

Stowe's question applies not just when we write our own stories, but we can profitably ask this question of the sources we use: when someone wrote a document decades or centuries ago, how did he or she shape the message to fit an intended audience? Was the document something so personal that no-one else was expected to read it (a secret diary?), or was it consciously written to send a specific message to an audience (a brief to a judge or a statement to a jury, a letter to a business partner, to a parent child or spouse, information to a census-taker, or an affidavit to a federal claims commissioner or pension official?). How did that affect the content, emphasis, or even the credibility of the information in a historical document?

David


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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