Whether you realize it or not, the stories you likely enjoy the most are the ones you can relate to on a personal level.
Sometimes, as a writer, you also unintentionally write stories that hit close to home for your readers. Eventually, you learn to do this intentionally.
My blog started out as many personal blogs do — filled with posts merely summarizing my day-to-day life and venting about the emotional roller coaster that was high school.
At some point I figured out that if I could weave these experiences into a reminder or lesson that anyone reading could learn from, a lot more people seemed to enjoy my posts.
So now, even though I try to talk about myself less and focus on my readers more, there’s a reason I haven’t taken the “I” point of view out of my blog. A site meant for writers, after all, should be written by a writer who understands firsthand what this unpredictable life entails.
It doesn’t matter what kind of story you’re writing, whether it’s straight fiction or an editorial feature or some hybrid of a few different genres. Stories are about people (or subjects with human-like qualities/emotions/thoughts) and have to be about those human-centric things we all can sit back and go, “Oh yeah, been there, survived that.”
All stories, in some way or another, are built on the foundations of human existence. We have all experienced what you’re writing about or have reacted to what you’re writing about in a similar way. What makes a reader connect to your words isn’t that they know you personally, but instead that they understand your perspective on a level deep enough that feels almost intimate.
This is why writers’ stories tend to get better the longer they write. It’s not that young writers (I don’t know if I can call myself one of those anymore … don’t mind me, just having a minor quarter-life crisis over here) aren’t capable of writing good stuff. They just … haven’t usually seen a lot of the world yet. They still have a lot to learn. And if they’re anything like me, they keep writing as they grow and learn and change.
The more you experience, the more you understand the elements of characterization and circumstance that capture the heart and attention of a reader. When it comes down to it, we’re all a bit self-centered, and we want nothing more than to feel as though a story is, in its own way, speaking directly to us.
That’s the key that unlocks the secret of good storytelling. Spinning webs of prose that make people feel understood. Appreciated. Heard.
And it all starts with you. The mantra “write what you know” holds up when you’re writing from your own experiences. You know what it feels like. So when you write from that vulnerable perspective, other people will feel it, too.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.