“I want a piece of the person speaking. I want their soul.”
This is one of my favourite pieces of writing advice, taken from an article by Ricky Gervais about writing a killer speech. I love it because it’s so simple, yet to do it well, you have to be emotionally brave.
It doesn’t really matter if you’re speaking your soul-words aloud, or you intend for others to read them instead. When you give people a piece of yourself, you will naturally engage them.
Think about your favourite book, or your favourite film. It’s likely that the main character’s personal story helped you connect with them on some level, however strange or absurd the plot might have been. You understood something about what that person yearned for.
This is one reason why classic novels and films transcend time. No matter where they’re set, or how long ago they were written, they are simply people’s personal, relatable stories.
So whether you’re writing a book, making a speech or crafting a blog post, it goes to follow that if you want to engage people, you’ll have to give them something they can personally connect with.
(Even if you’re writing about tractor engines).
Write like nobody’s reading…
If you’re writing a book or a personal piece, the best start you can make is taking a ramble on the page!
Don’t think about an audience, or how many ‘Likes’ you might get on social media. Just focus on your chosen subject, or your story character, and write down absolutely everything you think and feel about them.
Once you’ve done this, put your scribblings away for at least a day. When you read through them again, look for those personal details that really explain your subject or your character.
If you really are writing about tractor engines, it’s possible that you might find the scribbling down everything you think and feel about them just a little bit much!
But you can still give the subject some of your unique personality. How was your own interest piqued by those engines, or is there a quirky little fact you’ve always loved about them?
Sharing little details like these can turn what might initially be seen as a dull and specialist piece into something more human and relatable. Weave some personality through the educational facts and figures, and you’ll be left with an irresistible reading experience!
How you’ll know when you’ve ‘got it’
“If you’re being genuine then you can’t lose,” Ricky Gervais says in his article.
“People might not like what you say, but…if you try to be something you’re not, or if you try too hard to please people and you don’t mean it, they’ll like you even less.”
The great thing about genuinely writing from the heart is that other people are allowed to take or leave it. But you’ll stand by it regardless, because it means something to you.
For example, I received my first one-star review on Amazon this week for my book, Procrastinations. The review was harsh, but it didn’t upset me because I really did write that book from the heart, and I’m happy with the way it represents me. If someone else didn’t feel the same way about it, why should I worry?
(Besides, it’s important to remember that criticism is still a form of engagement! I’d rather that than be ignored, any day).
So the next time you’re writing something to engage others, think about giving them a piece of your soul to connect with. Like it or loathe it, they’re far more likely to remember it – and you.
I'm a friendly and professional writer, reviewer and editor who works with warmth, humour and flexibility.
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