Is Your Story Relatable?
Often we read stories that reflect our own lives in different ways. Whether it’s through characters that feel very real to us or certain incidents and events we might have experienced for ourselves, or we may have felt something similar, we find we can relate somehow. That sense of familiarity creates a connection and enables us as readers to get close to the characters.
For writers, creating something that’s relatable to the reader is a vital step towards helping them become part of the story and establishing a sense of immediacy.
Making a story and its characters relatable brings the story into the hearts and minds of readers. Every author wants to achieve that, but the realism of life is often overlooked by writers, or they fail to realise how immediacy works. Instead they choose ridiculous, convoluted plots that drown in cliché and stereotypes, populated with unbelievable heroes with superhuman powers and skills, with caricature type villains more suited to Hollywood action movies. Any sense of realism – and the ability to relate to the reader – is firmly chucked out the window.
What we as people – not writers – have personally experienced is what makes the elements of fiction writing relatable to the reader. Part of who we are often finds its way into our stories. Obviously too much of ourselves would be author intrusion, but some of our memories, our experiences of life and people, important events and situations help us create a sense of realism for the story, with a sense of emotion, perspective, and a sense of struggle that we give our characters.
Because of that sense of realism, there is also a sense of normality, so an incident in your story that involves the loss of something is something many people will understand. We can all relate to the sense of panic or shock of losing a phone, or a piece of jewellery, and we can all feel that realisation that it’s gone, because we’ve all experienced the same at some point in our lives. The realism of life has parallels with almost everyone, so to draw on your own experiences and emotions is a way of bringing your readers and your characters closer.
Something else that helps create a relatable story is the use of emotions. Our job as writers is to move our readers in some way. We make them feel different emotions when they read our stories, whether it’s joy, sadness, fun, fear, foreboding and so on. Emotions are relatable by their very existence, because everyone has emotions and everyone has felt a wide range of them. They understand that stabbing feeling of heartbreak. They know that queasy ache of losing a loved one. They know that heady rush of attraction. They know that simmering anger or jealousy. They have felt them, and they understand them.
Emotions make your story instantly relatable, because of the realism of life.
Of course, as writers we don’t just move our readers with emotion. No, we absolutely manipulate them. And to do that, we use fear.
Fear is something every human knows. It’s part of our biology. We are a fearful species, we fear lots of different things, be them ration fears or irrational ones. If it’s not creepy crawlies, slithery reptiles, rats, the dark or thunder and lightning, there is always something that someone is afraid of and that’s why some of the most relatable stories use our fears against us, because they play on our fears, exaggerate certain things and manipulate our emotions and perspectives.
Is your story relatable? If not, think about the realism of life. What’s real to us is, after all, also real to the readers.