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Tips to create emotional connection with your reader
To better explain how you may connect with your reader, examples have been pulled from popular animated movies. This post is littered with so many examples because creating an emotional connection with a reader is a complicated process that cannot be fudged or faked with a few cheap tips.
People Connect With And Believe People Like Them
It has been proven time and time again that people connect with and believe people that are like them. It is why marketing companies highlight different testimonials depending on which country they are marketing to. It is why Beyoncé had the same image photoshopped for an issue of Glamour in Italy and Glamour in Nigeria (where she was visibly darker).
You do not have to write to please everybody because what they see as familiar can cross race, religious, sex and age boundaries. The little girl in “Home” was black and she still connected with audiences the same way the Caucasian “Boo” did in Monsters Inc. Plus, in Toy Story 3 people cried over toys about to be incinerated, and few people have much in common with those.
What Did Plastic Toys Have In Common With Their Audience?
The reason is both complex and simple. In simple terms, people could see themselves in the characters and could see themselves acting in the same way if they were in such a position.
The more complex reason is that people can identify with the underlying themes, motivations and emotions. People’s empathy is given a channel through which they may experience what the character is experiencing in a far deeper and more meaningful way (ergo, a connection).
Consider The Flip-Side Alternative
Imagine if Woody, one of the main stars in Toy Story 3, was very insecure and kept playing cruel tricks on the other toys, such as telling them the food processor was a foot massager. Do you think people would have cried so hard at the end when Woody panics a little and then finally accepts his fate bravely?
People connected with the character because they fully understood the themes, motivations and emotions involved, and then were given a backstage pass to experience those elements for themselves because they could relate and empathize with the characters.
Let People Connect With Characters They Can Recognize
If you have ever walked around a tough part of a British city, you will meet and recognize a lot of the characters that appeared in the Michael Caine movie “Harry Brown.” If you haven’t, then you may not fully understand or appreciate the depth and quality of the characters. You will also feel a little less connected with the movie, which may be why such a fantastic film didn’t become as legendary maybe it should have.
The Paranorman Example
A great example of recognizable characters is the movie “Paranorman.” This Focus Features film follows a young boy named Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is able to speak to the dead. When his small New England town comes under siege by zombies, Norman takes on ghosts and witches to save it from a centuries-old curse.
Not much to identify with, right? The creators could have very easily made their characters carbon cutouts and stereotypes that can be seen in every US sitcom. Instead, the creators made characters that are highly relatable and familiar. Here are a few examples:
- Norman – Outcast and loner, but with a unique understanding of the world.
- Neil – The bullied and dumb fat kid that is actually quite mature and grounded.
- Courtney Babcock – The blonde bimbo sister that is just love-starved.
- Mitch – The jock, who’s protective of his brother and turns out gay.
- Perry Babcock – Hard on his son because he is scared for him.
All of these characters are very relatable, and each one could easily have been a cardboard cutout stereotype. Instead, people empathize with them because they were not stereotypes. The writers took stereotypes and turned them on their head. As a result, the characters have a depth that is sharply different from the typical stereotype.
For example, Mitch is macho, but also gay. He’s big and strong, but looks out for his brother rather than picking on him. And Courtney could have been just another dumb and stereotypically ditzy blonde, instead of a multi-faceted character struggling with emotional issues.
So, the secret to create emotional connections is to treat your readers to characters that remind them of real people, in real life. And nothing destroys that connection faster that inserting shallow and stereotyped characters without building their story.