Develop these 3 points of connection for more memorable writing
Think of your favorite stories, the ones that have stayed with you the longest. Perhaps you first read them as a child or young adult, then passed them onto your children or grandchildren. Or maybe you are revisiting a beloved book year after year, delighting in new observations or different perspectives as you move through different stages of life.
Have you ever wondered why those stories are so memorable?
Chances are, the authors created characters with whom you experienced an emotional connection, or a plot that captivated you. You stuck with the story, unable to put the book down, because of that emotional connection and captivation.
And when the story ended, the connection remained.
If you are writing with the intent to share your work with others, one of your goals is probably to make those kinds of lasting connections with readers. Here are three areas to develop if you want to produce more memorable writing:
Honing your own distinct voice as a writer is the most important goal if you want people to remember your words. You want to create characters your readers will empathize with, sure, but it starts with whether or not they like the feel and style of the person telling the story. You should consider tone and inflection, as well as whether you sound on the page the way you do when you speak. Also consider the stories that resonate most with you. What do you like about the voices of the authors you read? Are they sarcastic, witty, intelligent, sympathetic, bubbly, self-deprecating? Do they know when to crack wise and when to be serious?
And do they do what they do consistently? If every word you write is “in-character,” then your readers will begin to trust your voice. If they trust your voice, they will trust whatever you tell them in that voice. Give some thought to what comprises your distinct voice. Bring that self-awareness with you every time you sit down to write, and be willing to evaluate what you’ve written and smooth out, cut, or develop the parts that feel out-of-voice.
Once you have a voice readers recognize, like, and trust, you pave the way for them to relate to you, whether you are writing from your own perspective or through your characters. Just as readers trust a voice they have come to know and love, they relate to characters they know and love. When they are trusting and relating, they are connecting.
As a writer, you create those characters and that connection. You can do this by creating a strong, charismatic main character—the protagonist—but also by fully developing the antagonist(s) and tension(s) that will challenge the character. It’s not enough that we like who is speaking, or who the story is about; we have to see the character grow, change, make mistakes, and overcome adversity, because that’s what human beings do. Readers like to see themselves reflected in the books they read. They want to see characters like them, or like how they want to be. Children imagine themselves wearing Dorothy’s ruby slippers and walking through a wardrobe into Narnia. Adults feel empowered reading memoirs of redemption, or uplifted when a novel’s beleaguered protagonist finally gets a win. We return and return to the stories with characters we relate to the most, because they make us feel, because they transport us somewhere and light the way.
With a distinct voice and a roster of relatable characters in place, you can focus on the story itself. The most important element to consider is whether or not this story has been told before. Ideally, it will be brand new. We can’t all write Harry Potter, though, so perhaps the goal doesn’t have to be telling a story no one has ever heard before, but capturing the familiarity of the story while bringing your own unique voice and details to the telling of it. Familiar is not the same as unoriginal or cliché. Scores of writers explore the same topics over and over again: marriage, having kids, getting divorced, finding God, grappling with illness, achieving a life goal, speaking up about abuse, and more.
But humanity continues to need these stories. Do not let the fact that they are common stories deter you from telling your own versions of them, only tell them in your own unique way, meaning, 1) in your own distinct voice, and 2) with your own original details and some unexpected language. Make the familiar less predictable. Instead of saying your heart sank like a stone when your husband left you, say it descended like a submersible, rooting into the muck of the abyss, yes, but also exploring, gathering new resources, and eventually ascending once more. The heart as a deep-sea vessel? Now there’s an original metaphor to spin an entire, unforgettable book around—one that will have captured the relatability and familiarity of heartbreak, but in a fresh way only you, in your distinct voice, could render.
Work on these three areas, writers, and you will start telling stories your readers won’t soon forget.
Which element do you think will be most challenging for you? Did this post help? Share with us in the comments!
Related reading: How to develop your writing voice
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