Today is my sister and brother-in-law's fourth wedding anniversary. So naturally, relationships are on my mind today.
Someone told me once that life is all about relationships (both romantic and otherwise). I think we can argue that the same applies to writing. In fiction, characters' relationships provide the emotional heart of and even drive the story. In nonfiction, subjects such as history and sociology inherently deal with relationships. Even seemingly impersonal topics such as chemical reactions or tax policy always involve at least one relationship: the one we establish with our readers.
So how do we establish relationships with our readers? What should those relationships be like? Here are a few tips:
Know the expectations of your genre, format, and audience. Some types of writing, such as self-help books, lend themselves to addressing readers directly and informally. Other types of writing, such as academic journal articles, expect authors to maintain distance from their readers and focus on the subject. Reading widely in your genre and format will help you learn these often-unspecified guidelines. If you're planning to submit your finished work to a specific publisher or publication, also check their submission requirements. **This tip will help you implement the rest of the ideas on this list.
Show your credentials. Readers need to know why they should pay attention to what you're saying. In nonfiction, cite credible sources and, if your genre requires, include a literature review and/or explain your own background in the subject (applicable college degrees, other works you've published about the topic, etc.). In fiction, credentials are much trickier to show, but crafting a strong opening line and using techniques such as "show, don't tell" will go a long way.
Use jargon appropriately. Readers don't appreciate it when writers appear to either talk down to them or go way over their heads. Use subject- and/or genre-specific vocabulary that's appropriate to your audience. A general audience probably doesn't know what a carburetor is (I had to look it up), but an audience of professional mechanics will probably feel insulted if you explain that term to them. Similarly, you'll likely jar your readers out of the setting if your medieval fantasy novel describes two characters' friendship with the word bromance.
Only claim what you can support. Politicians and celebrities might get away with making wild, unsupported claims, but writers can't. Not without losing credibility with our readers, anyway. In nonfiction, provide support for any statements that aren't common knowledge. In fiction, back up general statements with specific details—or, better yet, simply provide the details and let the audience come to their own conclusions.
If you'd like some help implementing these tips in your work, click here to book a discovery call with me so we can get you rolling.
(Thanks to NONRESIDENT for sharing their work on Unsplash.)