Literature in the Hands of an Angry Secondary Reader

by Peter Leavell @peterleavell

The parents were gone and the child was bored. The kid went to the bookshelf and picked up a book.

Twenty years later.

*The boy treated women like the male characters did in his father’s action novels.

*All she knew about romance, she learned from her mother’s novels. One unrealistic relationship after another failed.

*God answered the prayer when the character prayed and won the football game, so when the boy’s father had cancer, why did the boy’s father die despite fervent prayers?

*She studied the clouds billowing around the mountain. Time was short before the valley floor flooded and trapped her in the rainforest village. She wouldn’t be able to get back to civilization. But the villager was dying, and the operation would take too long with just her handbag of tools. The decision took one second. She would be brave, just like the heroine in her mother’s book, and she performed the operation she’d been trained to do…

Primary Audiences (immediate audiences)—Those audiences the author fictionalizes in his or her head for which the work is written/filmed/painted/sculpted etc.

Secondary Audiences (subsidiary or mediated audiences)—Those audiences for which the work is not primarily intended but still partakes in the enjoyment/criticism of the work.

Shakespeare’s primary audience sat in the Globe Theatre to take in the Bard’s play (chills). Secondary audiences read or act the plays centuries later.

Primary Grandpas read my westerns. Subsidiary daughters and granddaughters who purchased the western read the novel before sending it to him. Two fans.

Write the right words, my friends. Primary audiences might look for clean entertainment (fine), but secondary audiences may be learning about the world from your work.

Use your fiction to help make sense of this world, not only for your primary reader, but secondary as well, and you’ll be taking your first steps to lasting literature. Deep truths can be delivered inside entertainment.

And you might convince some kid-girl to be a doctor in a faraway land, saving people’s lives…

Photo Copyright: vadymvdrobot / 123RF Stock Photo


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Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at