Friday, June 1, 2012

5 Tips to Endear Readers to Your Story

Writing a good story is all about connection. Connecting with your readers on some level, whether it's with a stellar plot, sympathetic characters, or even a spiritual message. There are times, though, at least with my writing, I've noticed there's something missing.

I have all the proper elements and a super detailed outline, but there's still that something missing.

If we want our characters to relate to our stories, we have to reach them on a real and relatable level. We don't want to just tell a story, we want to endear our readers to our story. We want to make them fall in love.

So if you already have a good plot. And you already have great characters, but you still want something extra to grab those readers and make them feel invested, here are five things you can add to your story--maybe not all at once--to help.

Add an animal
People can relate to animals, especially dogs or cats. But it can really be anything. This is a great way to show the softer side of your character, by having them talk to or love an animal. You can also use this for humor or extra conflict.

Add a child
Children are loveable, ornery, funny, trouble-makers, and more. All these things can add to a story and draw your reader in. It gives your characters someone else to interact with. Children in a story can help add tension, add elements of love and tenderness, vulnerability, or humor. They can also be used to help your main character see something about themselves they might not have otherwise seen.

Add a hobby
Think of who is reading your story and what kind of hobbies they can relate to, then give one of them to your main character. Readers will relate to it, and even though it might not be a big part of your story, it will interest your reader and give your character more dimension.

Add an object
This can come in many forms. Adding an object or memento your character carries around can help expand a story or their past. It can show their vulnerability. You can add humor by adding an object, like an old photograph of a mother or friend, for your character to talk to, vent to, to blame things on--whatever. This can add humor to the story, help reveal things about your character, and just add more dimension altogether.

Add an endearing characteristic
This is one we commonly hear about characters, and it's a good one! This really does make your character more relatable to a reader. It could be a habit, like always wearing a locket a loved one gave her, peering inside when she needs extra strength. It could be a funny quirk, like spouting off quotes that apply to certain situations because he loves literature. Anything that rounds out your character some and gives your reader a little more to like about your character.

Again, getting your reader to connect in some way is a big deal. If you're looking for something extra to encourage that relationship between reader and character, try some of these tips. Or, if you've already used any of these or others, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.

***photos from flickr

Cindy is a Colorado native, living near the mountains with her husband and three beautiful daughters. She writes contemporary Christian romance, seeking to enrich lives with her stories of faith, love, and a touch of humor.

To learn more about Cindy, visit her at her personal blog,


Jeanne T said...

Cindy, such a great post. Thanks for sharing your insights. I just finished my fast draft of my story last night, and this is the perfect time for me to add something in. As I read, I knew just what I'd add.

BTW, congratulations on your final in the Genesis!!! I'm so happy for you!

Jacqueline Howett said...

Hi Cindy! Nice tips. What great ideas to get my imagination going!

Have a great Friday!

Joanne Sher said...

Great tips, Cindy! May have to use one of these.

Unknown said...

Awesome tips, Cindy! I find myself endeared to characters who are funny, flawed and yet strong. Humor always draws me in to a character, too. :)

Congrats on the Genesis!!!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Jeanne, thank you so much! And I'm glad this post is good timing for you. It makes me curious what your story is about and what you're going to add :)

Jacqueline, hi! Great, I love when imaginations get going!

Hi Joanne, yes! Use one :)

Melissa, I totally agree. Humor can work wonders. And thank you! Have a great weekend!

Beth K. Vogt said...

I added llamas to my debut novel (Long story. My husband kept suggesting aliens.)
And readers love the llamas. They are a whole new take on comic relief.
Who knew?

Great post, Cindy!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Llamas!! Beth, I LOVE it. I actually have aliens in my current story--sort of. Also a long story :)
That's great, and sounds fun! Yes, pets or other animals can definitely add comic relief.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Wonderful post, Cindy!

I have horses in my two historicals and a child from an orphanage that gets under one of my character's skin! One that thought she didn't like kids!

I wish someone would come up with a list of quirks for heroines. Mine need spicing up and a good quirk would do it! LOL.

Congrats again on your Genesis final! A great accomplishment.


Becky Doughty said...

YAY! I have actually done all of the above! Because of you, this Friday, the 1st of June, I can say that I feel like I'm doing things right with my WIP.

Thanks for the tips and the encouragement.

Angela said...

I love these ideas! It gets me thinking about other angles for my story.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Thanks, Sue! Your story already sounds spiced up with a heroine who doesn't like kids but has to deal with them :) A good quirk list would be great, though, wouldn't it?

Becky, that's wonderful to hear. If you've already implemented these tips, you're clearly thinking about what your reader wants to see in a manuscript and that DEFINITELY means you're doing something right. You're doing lots of things right :) Keep it up! And I'm glad you stopped by!

Angela, woo hoo! I love it when a post gets us thinking :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Great tips, Cindy! I tend to like adding elderly people to my stories too. For some reason, they just lend themselves to sweet moments as well as humor. :)

Casey said...

I love adding kids with a rocking sense of humor. And my latest story has two pets in it: Slobbers the bulldog and Checkers the tiger-striped cat.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Sarah, that's another great tip! Thanks for sharing, I could definitely see how elderly people would help make a reader fall in love with a story.

Casey, Slobbers? I LOVE it! Pets and kids - great combo :)