When I started my writing journey, someone asked me what my
purpose was. I said, “To connect with readers,” and it’s still true today. You
might have a different purpose for writing, but any writer will be better off
if she connects with her readers.
Writing Tip for Today: What are some ways to better connect
Tell the Truth
If you’re writing fiction, you probably think, what’s the truth got to do with it? It’s all make-believe! Well, yes and no. You invent characters, goals, stakes and plot, but a certain truth must lie underneath each of these. If your character doesn’t behave or react in ways which ring true, if your goals, stakes or events feel convoluted or too easy, the reader probably can’t connect with your story.
One way to better tell the truth in fiction is to understand
your character’s motivations. I know this term gets thrown around, but what it
means in terms of connection is that your character will stay inside the
crucible much more easily if her past choices and attitudes are drawn through
to every scene.
Character motivation often translates to back story. Be careful to weave, not clump (remember the Rule of Three!) back story, don’t let the mashed potatoes grow cold and learn to smoothly transition into back story and out again. Always be sure readers understand WHEN they are in the story. For more on Back Story, go here.
Your character may feel misunderstood, lonely, lovesick or
angry, among other emotions. In fiction, readers are always searching for ways
to validate their own emotions through the fictional characters. And the
emotions readers concentrate on are not usually the positive ones. If your
character is content, has a nice life and can’t complain, readers may feel left
out. Even those of us who actually are content in life read fiction to shake up
Most of the time, fiction can connect with readers best on
the subconscious or hidden level. Even if the reader has never encountered loneliness
on the scale you portray in your story, almost everyone has felt lonely. The
events which occur in your story don’t necessarily need to match reader
experience, but the feelings your story evokes should provide a bridge—a way
for reader emotions to feel validated by the story.
Take a look at your story and try to identify at least three emotions your character displays that will build that bridge of connection to readers. Nathan Bransford’s post about creating character intimacy might help you with validation.
Connection with readers is perhaps best when a writer
provides an insight or states a truth or observation in an eloquent or
memorable way. In this age of e-readers it’s interesting to note the spots in
novels that thousands of readers highlight. When I see an example of what
readers highlight, it’s almost always a pithy saying or deep truth that readers
In your own fiction, knowing the “truth” of your character’s
motivations and allowing that character’s emotions to validate readers will go
a long way to connect readers to insights. The deeper you go in “knowing” your
character, the more likely it may be that you’ll give that character memorable observations
and truths about living. That’s a sure-fire way to connect to your readers.
Why bother to connect with readers? A connected reader is a
loyal reader. If readers find truth, validation and insight in your story, they’ll
not only remember it, they’ll want more of what you write. The more you work on
connecting to your readers, the larger your readership will grow.