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I’m trying to understand the concept of an audience. I feel like exposure to modern stories has given me a vague sense about aspects of this concept but I would really like someone with more formal training in literature to help me understand it.

Here are my Guesses:

  • General/Universal: Writing using elements similar to most people’s real life experiences. Example: A pop song about the trials and tribulations of romantic relationships.
  • Specific/Personal: Writing using elements that not many people are thinking about. Example: A post on Stack Exchange with nothing that would show up in a Google search result.
  • Topical: Writing with aspects of the real world, possibly with changes to illustrate some point. Example: An American television show involving torture, security and terrorism.
  • Cultural: Writing (and other stories) that help viewers have conversations with other members of their culture. Example: A sporting event with semi-random unscripted events and favored outcomes.
  • Distracting/Captivating: Writing with particularly complex and engaging elements which provide an alternate world to live in. Example: A soap opera involving comas, long lost twins and dying wishes.
  • Search for "reader response theory". The information you seek is too extensive for an answer here, but you can start with the sources and scholars given in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reader-response_criticism – user5645 Apr 7 '15 at 5:48
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Well, in in the International Baccalaureate Program's english classes, they tend to teach that when analysing the audience of a text - ('text' is synonymous to story in this case) - you have to ask a few questions to help one determine the audience:

  1. What is the purpose/moral of the story? (If any)
  2. Who is the author? (Anywhere from where they are from to what they are known for writing if they are known for writing something)
  3. What are the story's contexts (When/Where/How/etc was it written?)

For example, let's take Shakespeare's Macbeth:

  1. There are many morals, but one is that power can corrupt people. Ultimately the purpose of the play as to why it was written was solely for entertainment.
  2. Shakespeare was an English writer during the late renaissance era. He is known for writing plays (which were the "hip" and "fun" thing of that time). Most of his other stories were written for entertainment as well.
  3. The story was written to be performed. It is about early Scottish kings, and at the time Shakespeare wrote the play, King James was ruling England - a note to be made. It was written in what was considered to be vernacular at the time.

Conclusion:

The audience was mainly just common everyday people of his time. The play was written elegantly in English, so it is obvious that when I say everyday people, it means the English common-folk. This can be supported by the fact that the play was written in common vernacular. The story itself supported the notion that the king is god's representative on earth, and so to overthrow him would bring about evil and tragedy upon the kingdom. In addition, the story remade some of King James' ancestors - as well as King James himself - to be thought of as "the chosen ones" - sort of. With that in mind, it can be said that Shakespeare was trying to please King James by making his play a propoganda that would be favorable to him, perhaps he even intended King James to be his audience....

I could rant on for this example, but I think you get the point. To understand the audience of a story, you have to analyze all features of both the story and the author. - I'm not sure if that was exactly what you were asking, but there's my input.

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