Have you ever finished reading a story and sat there for a minute, amazed at how much the author seemed to understand you or what you had been through? How well they managed to voice your thoughts within their prose, as if they themselves reached into your head and fished them out for use in their story?
It’s not on accident that some stories make us feel as if we’re looking into a mirror. Relatable stories are the most effective kinds of stories. People hold them close. Learning how to write stories people will relate to is an important step in the journey toward becoming an accomplished writer. Here are a few tips to help you figure out how to write more relatable stories.
Understand your audience
Your audience reads because they, like you, seek to be understood. Don’t just know who they are. Know what they like and don’t like, how they spend their time, how they speak, how they think, how they behave. Understand what they want and what they need, what they are looking for in a story and what will influence and inspire them.
Understanding your audience means making a full commitment to writing stories that make them feel represented and heard, stories that give them a platform from which they can gather the courage to stand up and speak for themselves. Granted, not every individual in your audience will react to a story the same way. You will never be able to please every person that picks up your story, but you can, and should, attempt to reach out and touch as many as you can with your words.
Challenge every cliche and stereotype possible
Audiences know cliches and stereotypes so well that they are, whether they know it or not, on a constant search for stories that will address those cliches and stereotypes in a way that shatters and redefines them. People hunger for these types of stories because, deep down, we all wish they would go away. Yet not all of us are able to put that secret desire into words like many writers can.
Be bold. Learn about stock characters and transform them into something new. Familiarize yourself with the expected, the predictable outcomes of stories that already exist, and instead predict what people might want to see happen instead. These kinds of stories are relatable because they meet a hidden need most readers don’t even know required satisfaction before receiving it.
Make yourself part of the story
No matter how hard you try, you can’t keep yourself – your experiences, your worldview, your opinions – out of the stories you write. There will always be a small part of you in there somewhere. Let it happen. Don’t try to keep yourself out of it. Writing stories has a way of releasing parts of ourselves we’ve forgotten were buried. Those parts are what make our stories relatable. The raw emotion, the honesty, the pain, the memories: it all counts. It all matters, and it all adds to the story’s personality. It’s what makes it more real, for everyone.
There is going to be some element of your work that you choose to add in because it resonates with you on a deep level. This is not a bad thing. There are plenty of people out there, even those in your audience, who will resonate with the same things you resonate with. If you inject feeling into your work, they will feel it, too. If you introduce them to an idea through a certain perspective, perhaps they will either agree with it or use it to spread their own ideas from a different perspective on the same general topic.
Stories need to be relatable because stories are not just for entertainment. They all have messages, even satires. Not every story is going to relate directly with every single person who reads it. But there is always that chance that it will change someone’s life, which is, from a writer’s perspective, a pretty amazing feat achieved by sitting down and putting words together semi-strategically.
Have you ever read a story that really resonated with you, maybe enough to inspire you to write your own story? What was it about that story that connected with you, and how can you use that to construct stories other people can relate to?
Image courtesy of Pho Vinternatt/flickr.com.