Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Relatable Writing

Net's Notations--All About the Reader Series
Relatable Writing

Relatable. Blogger’s spellchecker doesn’t like it, but readers love it! I type the word “relatable” and immediately a dotted red line sends out an alert. Try again. Bad word. Ah, but it isn’t.

We will better minister to our readers when our writing is relatable.

So, here’s the challenge—we writers are oftentimes somewhat like hermits—perched behind our computers in corners of rooms, writing to an audience, but doing it alone. We’re hidden and sometimes we prefer to keep our hearts and minds, our pasts, our weaknesses hidden, too. We can hide behind our characters and their problems, their failures. We beat them up and give them heroic qualities to match their dilemmas. We distance ourselves from them because it’s safe.

But, for readers to commit to reading our books, to feel a connection with our characters, to root for them, we have to be open. Vulnerable. Personal (at some level). Relatable.

There is a specific Christian author who can make me cry in the opening pages of her books, if she wishes. There at the beginning of the story—a scenario so rich, so relatable, so painful, and I’m right there with the characters—weeping, sometimes. And that’s just the beginning of the story. I know when I pick up her books I will be crying at some point.

Now, I’m not talking a couple of “surface tears,” I’m talking a deep down mourning. That’s what she elicits by being relatable. She taps into emotions at the core of my experience—and likely her greater audience’s experience—and bam! I’m relating. I’m hooked. I’m emotionally invested. And I’m committed. All because she was relatable.

But as a writer, you can’t be relatable if you don’t let some of yourself out onto the screen—some of your own past, some of your own pain, some of your own emotions. Thing is, we’re all human and the human experience is relatable. You may think you’re the only one who has struggled with _____, but you aren’t. And there’s no shame in being human, right? God created us humans, and He’s not ashamed to call us His own.

The best emotions in print started with emotions at the keyboard.

It’s fearful for most of us. But it’s necessary. And it’s another way we can serve our readers.

Be brave. Be real. Be relatable. Because it’s all about the reader.

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