I am fascinated by relationships and the way people interconnect. You may have heard of the “six degrees of separation” theory. It is the idea that everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by six links. With social media and other technology, it is easier to link to people and actually see those links (“I didn’t know you knew my friend Beth!”).
As you get older, you lose touch with some people and others remain steady and strong relationships-sometimes for not-so-obvious reasons. I still exchange a Christmas card and an old-fashioned written letter with my high-school running coach almost 25 years later (yikes!). As kids, you haven’t reached this point yet. But there may be a friend who moved away that you are still very close to. Or a teacher from a younger-grade you go back and visit from time to time. There will be teachers, mentors or coaches you feel a special connection with- who inspire you or just go that extra mile to show they care – that will make an imprint on you. There will be friends that stay with you forever. They have a special place in your heart so even if you go long periods of time in connecting with them, once you see them again, it will melt all of those days between away.
You don’t have to be a social butterfly or popular. You have to be you. You have to make connections. It is so important, so human, to need this.
How does this relate to your writing? Think about the characters you really care about in your favorite books. You have a connection with them. You are drawn to them because of a need they have, a hardship they’ve gone through, a familiarity with yourself . . . without these connections, you won’t care too strongly for what happens to that character. So, you need to dig deep inside yourself and see what connects YOU to people. Then, bring those qualities or feelings to your characters.
Think in terms of “Fears” or “Needs” of your character and work your story and conflict around that emotion(s). Some examples are:
- Need to Matter
- Need to Connect
- Need to Protect
- Fear of Abandonment
- Fear of Conflict
- Fear of Failure
Many of these fears and needs derive from past relationships, the way a person is treated by others and how they see themselves perceived by others. Work these connections with others and find the strengths and weaknesses of your characters through them. Flesh out your characters to draw in your readers!