Readers yearn to relate to characters. In fact, if a reader cannot find anything relatable about them, a book may end up back on the shelf after a few chapters. While professions and personalities may vary from character to reader, there is a definite human quality that makes a reader believe that a character could actually exist within their world. If not as themselves, then as a friend, co-worker, family member, etc.
If this level of relatability is so important, how can you ensure readers will be able to identify with the stories you write? It’s simple! Base your stories on real people, details, and experiences.
Think of your story as a plant. It starts as a seed or—an idea. Your effort is the water necessary for development, and your dedication is the sunlight. Your seed will need to be surrounded by organic details and characters—the soil. Each specific element acts as a nutrient that enables the story to take root and flourish. A story taken from real life will thrive, not only from a literary standpoint, but also within the reader’s imagination.
In order to do this, observe your surroundings, take note of the people you interact with. Be open to new experiences, conversations, and friendships. Here are a few tangible ways to start:
- Brew a pot of tea or coffee and sit down with a grandparent, parent, or someone significantly older than you. Ask them questions about a certain time in their life, such as, where they met their best friend, how they got their job, etc. Regardless of how novel or mundane their answers are overall, they can provide specific details that are hard to make up!
- Pull out your old journals or diaries and flip through the years. Time and maturity can cast a whole new light on your experiences. Sometimes, a fresh perspective can help kick-start a new plot twist or character development.
- Always carry something with you to record your findings. If you’re a pen-and-paper person, carry a small notebook specifically for writing things that capture your interest and inspire creativity. Try not to mix tasks and to-do lists with your details, phrases, and stories. There are a number of apps for your smartphone, as well. Apps such as, Evernote, Dragon Dictation, and DraftPad can be helpful.
- If you have ever told a friend the details of something you were struggling with in life, only for them to stop you and say, “Goodness! This is starting to sound like a movie!” Swallow any embarrassment over your life’s drama, and write it down. Chances are someone else will find it just as riveting.
These are just a few things you can use to develop this valuable habit of gleaning details and characteristics from life and incorporating them within your writing. Documenting traits, personal details, and honest circumstances of people around you, will help you elevate your writing, and consequently your books, to the next level of relatability and influence.
– Article written by Emiley Jones –