To really make an impact with your story, you need to build an emotional bond with your audience. By creating that bond, you draw your readers into caring about what happens to your characters. If they care, they stick around.
Give Them Characters To Form An Emotional Bond To
The characters are the main draw of your story. Your Protagonist is the person who’s story you follow. The Antagonist is the person who makes that story entertaining.
In order for your audience to form an emotional bond to your characters, they have to have something to connect to. What does your Protagonist want? Why do they want it? What are the stakes if they don’t get it?
What they want is the focus of your story. At The Inciting Incident you motivate them to go about changing their lives. Either they want to achieve a goal, such as winning a competition, or they want to stop something from happening, such as aliens invading the world.
Why they want it is the reason they are motivated, and the emotional hook. Just wanting something isn’t enough, you can’t connect to it. You have to show your audience why it matters. The emotional bond will form when they see why it matters and why they should care. Show your audience why it is important to your character and their pain from not having it.
What the stakes are if they don’t get it build the intensity. If you’ve formed an emotional bond to a character, you don’t want to see them in pain. The stakes are the threat of suffering your audience want your Protagonist to avoid. What happens if they fail? What are the consequence of losing the competition? Do they need prize money to save their house? Or maybe they need to win to get a place at the school of their dreams?
Build On The Emotional Bond As You Write
The first time you meet the Protagonist, you should start seeing what is wrong with their life. Something is missing, so you understand why they are motivated to change it.
From there, you build up. Respect that a true bond comes from time and care, not just by telling your audience who they are supposed to root for. You make them care by building that emotional bond over time.
Every scene should include what they want and why they want it. Use your Antagonist to keep the challenges coming, and each challenge is a chance to focus on the goal. Each challenge gets harder, and each challenge your Protagonist overcomes the effort needed is increased.
As your audience watches your Protagonist pushing, trying, caring, they will grow that emotional bond. They can see how much it matters, they can see how much they care. It’s the passion for their goal that your Protagonist has that will draw your audience in. The more they see, the more time you spend building and growing it, the deeper that bond will be.
Use Your Protagonist’s Interiority
The most likeable characters are the vulnerable characters. People who have pain they are carrying and managing every day.
Most of us have pain, trauma and fear in our hearts. Sometimes we are overcome by those feelings, but usually we just carry them with us. So when we see another person struggling with pain, we can relate to them. They’re vulnerable and they’re human and we can relate to them for it.
Explore your Protagonist’s pain and vulnerability by giving them a rich interiority. Through this interiority, your audience gets direct access to who that person is. You’re let into their minds in a way we only ever experience of ourselves. That degree of intimacy, that discovery of the core truth and vulnerability of a person, forms an emotional bond in a very real way.
Most people are hiding their pain just to function each day. Acting stronger than they feel, putting on a confident front for the world. That front is a barrier. It’s the person they want you to see not the truth of who they are. By getting directly into their interiority that boundary is broken down. Your audience is one with your Protagonist. They see their own pains and fears reflected in the truth of who they are.
Why The Emotional Bond Matters
Once your audience forms an emotional bond with your character, you’ve got their attention. It takes a lot to walk away from characters you care about. It’s easy to walk away from characters you don’t.
If you want them to stick around to the end of your story, read future stories, and recommend your work to others, they have to care. By forming this bond, giving them a person to care about and a reason to care, you’ve earned that loyalty.
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