Correct, there's an audience for everything, even Mary Sues. So, why not leave it up to the reader if she/he likes it?
Maybe the following should be included into this thread:

What does the author want to achieve? which are her/his goals?
Share imagination?
Send a message of whatever kind?
Describe a world and its inhabitants?
Show the development of a single char or group?
Humour? Suspense? Love? History with facts or simply free imagination? Tragic? Technic?
Win a literature prize? (Gee, how many of them did I have to buy and saw them rotting in the shelves <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/delight.gif" alt="" /> )
Which audience to target? Age, gender, genre preference

I read this thread with interest, but I really missed the audience. And I think, they play a very important role - for those authors wanting to show their work in public, of course (publish or post) - they play no role at all for those simply going into interaction with themselves (private writing).

In this thread we've spent a lot of attention on technique and often times it does seem the audience has been omitted. However, that isn't and shouldn't be the case when crafting a piece of fiction. My approach to story design is probably common although the individual steps may differ in sequence. If I come across an idea which I consider a 'gem', I begin its development by writing general character outlines, construct several settings to see which one fits best, consider the best tone and decide what form of delivery (short story, novella, novel, play, screenplay, creative non-fiction, etc.) best suits the idea. The next step involved (if the story is still viable and something I want to work with) is to list the research I need to do as an author and within that research is where I consider the target audience. As I've stated, writing does not exist in a vacuum (at least, not for me). <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> This may sound daunting but it's not all that time consuming. Depending on the idea, I can complete the initial tasks within 2-3 days before I begin any research. The other approach I've taken, but (hasn't served me as well) is to begin writing and not stop until I've breathed some life into the storyline, a character or its setting. So, for me, it's a creative process - even though this process may seem more scientific in approach. It still requires imagination.

The audience is always there, Kiya - at least it is while I'm crafting the story. However, its face changes frequently for me during the construction. And there are times when I am in touch with a faceless audience. That, to me, is scary. And those are the pieces I post on a writing forum or ask my fellow authors for an opinion.

As to audience. Well, developing your own takes years and breaking into publication is very, very competitive. Let's face it, most of the fiction on the market are plotlines that have been updated and rehashed to suit a given genre. It's rare to find a 'new' story in the fiction department. I think the most compelling and unique novel for a first-time author was Janet Fitch's "White Oleander". I am not at all familiar with fanfiction, its websites, stories or characters, so you all will have to bear with me. That's not to say I don't 'like' it -- I wouldn't know out of 'ignorance' on my part. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" /> I am an eclectic writer and reader -- maybe 'fickle' is a better description. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" /> I go wherever my tastes suit me at the time. My home library is filled with everything from 'Police Procedurals' to the complete works of e. e. cummings, with a heavy emphasis on fantasy, somewhere in the middle. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

If you're a freelancer (as some of us are) and you need to put food on the table, then audience is probably going to be your first priority. If you write Christian non-fiction, you still have homework to do when considering where to publish. Sometimes freelancers take the same article and rewrite it for specific publications. If the idea is good, an author can get a lot of mileage out of it. So, writing for an audience is a double-edged sword. Authors are sometimes jeered for placing too much emphasis on a particular audience or not enough. The 'happy medium' is a hard balance to strike.

So, it's really not a matter of 'leaving it up to the reader' so much as the author actually targeting a certain audience. If you, as a professional writer, can afford the luxury of a whimsical approach, then by all means - do so. However, once a piece is posted on a message board such as this - or any public forum on the internet, it is considered by many print publishers to be 'published'. Therefore, taking that into consideration, the author already has lost without even getting out of the gate. I know it doesn't sound fair, but that's the rules of the trade.

More flotsom for the swill. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" />

Faralas <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/mage.gif" alt="" />