Connecting through Storytelling
Think about your favorite books or films. You know, the ones that make you lose track of time, where you become a part of the action and actually lose yourself in the story. What makes those books or films so captivating? What sets them apart from other stories that, while they may be interesting, don’t really make you suspend your own reality and become a part of the narrative?
The answer is, most likely, that those stories that enchant you touch on universal truths, things that happen to everyone in one way or another, and create a feeling that the author or filmmaker understands you. That is the mark of a great storyteller: the ability to make their audience identify with the story on a personal level.
It may seem like a daunting task to become that type of storyteller, but the truth is, you can train yourself to create a bond with your audience. While not everyone has the innate talent to create a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel or an Oscar-worthy screenplay, just about anyone can tell their own story in such a way that their audience is beguiled and feels a connection with you.
There are many tactics that will aid you in connecting with your audience, but the most important is to be genuine and honest. The old adage, “Write about what you know,” is a cliche for a reason: it’s necessary for you to dig deep and come up with personal experiences that are common to the human condition, and to make those experiences relatable. We all think that our experiences are utterly unique but, really, almost everyone can identify with the feelings behind the experience.
For example: perhaps you were a child, say 7 or 8, and part of a happy family. Then, one day, you came home from school to find that your house had burned down and you’d lost that family, except for one sibling. You were terrified and sad, and angry, and confused. The only person you had was your brother or sister, and they were just as devastated as you. But you held on to each other, and grew up as close as two people can be, and went on to start a successful counseling center for children who are the victims of trauma.
Now, this is an extreme example, and your audience is not likely to be populated with people who have experienced that kind of tragedy. It’s personal. However, every single person in that audience will understand the FEELINGS: terror, sadness, anger, confusion. We have all experienced those feeling and emotions in our lives. If you can present that experience in a way that focuses on the feelings, and then go on to tell your audience how you overcame those emotions and became the person you are today, you will have captivated them completely.
In later posts, I’ll lay out the methods we have developed for creating a story that will be emotionally compelling to your audience. But for now, remember, making your audience YOURS is all about speaking to the human condition. Create a narrative that is peppered with emotions, a little humor, and a happy ending, and you will have your audience enthralled.