A few weeks ago, we talked about about branding and blogging and how to create connections with others. People who feel connected to us are more likely to be willing to give our book a try or to help us promote. Connected readers might become our front lines in our quest for global bestseller domination. *ahem* Or something like that.
One way to create that connection is by being ourselves. But what does that mean?
I think we have to be honest and vulnerable. It’s okay that you know about my imperfections. It’s okay that you know about my insecurities. It’s okay that you know I’m a bit crazy.
For example, my thought process before my previous post for my blogiversary contest went live was something like: What if no one wants to win me? After all, who the heck am I? I’m just some nobody-two-bit-unpublished-writer among thousands. If no one enters, will I die of embarrassment?
But I went and put myself out there anyway with the hope that the risk would be worth it. Now, of course, I’m stunned and humbled by the record number of comments to that post, and I’m like: Whoa, really? That many people have entered? But… Why? (Yes, writers are neurotic.)
So it makes sense that our blog writing should reflect the real us. And although we might not point out that huge zit in the middle of our forehead, we shouldn’t pretend we never get pimples. Fake perfection will turn people away. But what does that advice mean for our fiction writing?
How honest and vulnerable should our fiction writing be?
Yesterday, one of my Twitter friends, Megan Mulry, posted tweets from Madeline Hunter’s keynote speech at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference. I apologize for the Megan-said-that-Madeline-said nature of these quotes, but I think the essence about writers is clear (edited for text-speak):
We do expose ourselves. Private pains, sorrows, and joys, because we are drawing from them all the time for our characters. We find our voices when we embrace that exposure.
I love that last line: “We find our voices when we embrace that exposure.”
When we’re worried about what our mother or co-worker is going to think, our voice dies. When we hold back the emotions because they’re too painful for us to poke at, our writing suffers.
I’ve gradually realized how true that concept is. My voice is stronger when I’m sleep-deprived because I’m naturally more vulnerable then. And my unlikable character didn’t really start to shine until I’d exposed her vulnerabilities to readers.
On both the large scale of our voice and the smaller scale of our characters, being honest and vulnerable matters. Just as much as our blog readers can’t connect to us if we hold them at a distance, the same goes for readers of our fiction writing.
I once heard we should ignore the first reaction our character has when we ask them why they did something. If our characters are anything like real people, their first reaction will be defensive and dishonest. Instead, we have to dig deeper to get the truth from them.
One of my main characters is so private I almost have to grill her under the spotlights to get anything out of her. I’d feel bad for my interrogations, but it’s necessary to expose her to the reader.
Only by making ourselves and our characters honest and vulnerable can readers connect to our words. Only then will our voices ring true. Only then will we be successful at eliciting emotions from our readers. And emotions are what make the reading experience like nothing else.
How vulnerable do you make yourself in your blog? What about in your fiction writing? How vulnerable do you make your characters? Do you have any difficult characters who resist your attempts to expose them? Have you noticed any change to your voice depending on your honesty or vulnerability?