Writers hear a lot of things. They eavesdrop on conversations. They listen to music while writing. They listen to the advice of agents and copy editors. Most of all (or perhaps least of all, depending on how the work’s going) writers listen to their own internal writing voice.
These are all good things.
But how can a writer listen to a reader? Readers read, don’t they? They’re not involved in the writing process; they don’t provide feedback before the book hits bookshelves or the Amazon Marketplace.
Despite all these things, readers do want to feel heard and understood. Even when they’re looking the Fantasy/Sci-Fi section at the bookstore, they’re looking for some common ground between them and your characters. Here’s where the listening writer comes in.
Seek Common Ground
A shred of warmth or humanity, in actions if not in appearance, is all that’s required of your characters for your readers to forge a connection. Exposing a flaw, even if it’s not crucial to the story, helps with that. As does revealing vices, a childhood backstory, or an insecurity. Think of these small elements like footholds, and your reader is the rock climber, scaling your story until they reach your conclusion. The climb is easier with more footholds, right?
Focus on the Everyday
In movies, I get easily frustrated by the action heroes who are always going, going, going. They never stop to eat, to think, to plan their next move, or, Heaven forbid, go to the bathroom or fumble with their car keys. Even if the actions are unimportant to your story’s overall arc, have your characters do these things. It helps the reader relate; it’s almost like looking in a mirror.
What do you do to help your readers relate to your characters? Share your thoughts in the comments!