No One Cares About Your Story

10:40 AM


(Hey, guess what? I guest posted on Heather's blog, Sometimes I'm A Story. You should check it out, yeah?) 

Wow, that title's harsh. But true, so let's repeat it all together now, shall we? Really let it sink in.

No one cares about your story. 

As writers, that's a devastating thing to contemplate. We spend hours and days and weeks and months and years pouring our soul into that Word document, filling the pages with prose and characters and events. All of it feels so real. All of it starts to mean so much.

Guess what? No one cares.


Yeah, you heard me. You know all those characters that are basically a part of you? That plot you've slaved over for a year? That twist that you're insanely proud of? No one's going to give any of it a second glance. 

Not on their own, at least. 

You have to make us care. That's the trick. It's super hard. I'm pretty sure I still haven't mastered this. But have you ever read a book and spent the whole time frustrated because you couldn't relate to anything or anyone? If your readers can't relate to something in your story, you'll be getting a lot of this: 



I have a hard time feeling things over fiction. I'm just heartless like that. The characters I really love, the ones I cry over and feel for so badly, are the ones that remind me of myself in ways, the ones that remind me of humanity. Why on earth do you think so many people feel sympathy for Loki - care about Loki? He's not really a nice guy. He's killed hundreds of people. But he's vulnerable, and lonely, and feels unwanted, and most of us have felt that way to a lesser extent at sometime or another. We can connect with that, we know his pain, so we care because it's a roundabout way of seeing it resolved in ourselves too. Why do you care about Katniss's journey? You've never been in the Hunger Games. But if you have a sibling, especially a younger one, you know you'd do anything for them, so you can relate to that. It's not specific instances. It's feelings. 

Of course you have all these feels about your own writing. You know the characters inside and out, and they've probably got pieces of you. But is that showing? 



I've found it's usually best to make it a small thing. Load them up with all kinds of tragic backstory, talk and wail about it all you want, put them through books and books of trauma, if you'd like. There's nothing wrong with that (not usually.) But how many people can connect with torture? It's the little things, the little relatable bits and pieces. The family trouble, the anxiety, the feeling of being alone, all of those glorious little human messes. It's not hard, if you think about it. This is a lie. It's very hard to actually get it on paper; don't take my word for it.

Now go hit the Word Document and give us all some feels, why don't you? Make us care. 

What about you? What makes you sympathetic towards a character? How do you make us care about your stories? Comment away. 

29 comments

  1. All the lost and misunderstood souls get my sympathy like Snape in Harry Potter.I usually end up caring about most of the characters though if I find a book interesting.Exception : characters who're whinny and don't appreciate things they have like Rachel in Friends.

    Neal Kind
    Daily Diaries

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    1. Right? Whiny characters are the WORST - I mean, sometimes some brooding is in order, and I can hardly blame them, but most of the time I just want a character who sucks things up and deals with it. xD Being the heartless person I am, I tend to have more sympathy for characters who just deal with it. *shrugs*

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  2. I was about to get really offended and then I read it.
    I do try to make characters relatable, I'm a bit more successful with some than others, but letting readers know that the characters are in fact human with human desires and needs, that makes them relatable. Also it doesn't hurt to throw them into some really terrible situation that makes us want to hug them and give them a blanket and make them feel better.

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    1. I'm glad I didn't offend you. :P
      It's easier with some than others, I'd agree. I have a harder time writing characters who aren't like me than characters who are, and I know that's a huge part of how sympathetic they come across...you have to really get inside their head and that's a hard balance. But they have to be human, like you said. That's the crucial bit. It's those little bits and pieces that make the big terrible situations actually bad, in my opinion - who cares that her best friend is dying if you don't have any empathy for her? And so on. xD

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  3. This is so true, Aimee. I think it's especially hard for writers of science fiction and fantasy to help their readers connect with the characters and feel all the feels because most of us have not experienced the same things as the characters. The trick is to infuse all the little nuances that make up a human into the story so that we readers can we relate. I want my stories to drip with humanity and honesty. You hit the nail on the head with this post, Aimee.

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    1. I'd agree - it's sci-fi that has the biggest problem with this, in my experience, because it's such a big world and such outlandish circumstances that we often get caught up in the action scenes and forget that the characters should be, you know, real people.
      I'm glad you liked it so much - thanks for reading!

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  4. This is somewhat true! I am not a big writer but I am a VERY BIG reader, and I find that the books I enjoy the most are the ones I can relate too! Love this post!
    Mae :)
    superswankified.blogspot.com

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    1. Yes! That's what touches us most about a story, is when we can understand what the characters are feeling and relate to them to an extent. Thanks!

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  5. The Moriarty gif. That is perfect. I definitely agree that a huge sob story isn't necessary to evoke sympathy, but little, universal elements are important. Why I think Shakespeare has endured until now :)

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    1. Ah, yes. I don't have anything against huge sob stories - hey, I have a lot of characters with big sob stories that I like to torture betas with - but honestly, if I can't relate to the character I really don't care.
      Wow, that sounds harsh. But true. xD

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  6. I have never thought about it like that before. woah....that was really eye opening. thank you for sharing this bit of wisdom. Im for sure going to keep that in mind when I write from now on..
    that really gives me a lot to think about. thank you!

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    1. Oh gosh, I'm glad you really liked it! :) It's hard for me to keep in mind, but I do try to remember it. Thanks so much for reading!

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  7. Wow, nice job. What really got me to read it was the gifs. XD But good point and definitely true. Feels!

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    1. Thank you, it seems like everyone likes the gifs xD ALL THE FEELS.

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  8. It's true. No one really cares about my story...until I make them.

    It really is the little things. I remember feeling so much sympathy when I first read Harry Potter. It wasn't really because he was an orphan, but rather he was misunderstood. He was made fun of. He was unsure of the future. These are the things that got to me. Great post, Aimee!

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    1. Yes! I'm not exactly the most sympathetic person ever, so I really have to be able to relate to a character to feel for them at all. My favorites ever are the ones I GET - the ones that I can see little bits of myself in, if that makes sense, and I try to put some of that in my own characters, too.

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  9. YES this post. This was one of the problems with the Maze Runner for me... I really couldn't feel anything alongside Thomas. The same with America from The Selection. My sympathy lies with people like Snape and Katniss.

    Awesome post on Sometimes I'm a Story, and great gif use :))

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    1. That's interesting to me, because I loved Thomas and was able to relate to him really well...but I can see how other people might not, and to each her own, I guess. :) there have been lots of other characters (Tris from Divergent, etc.) that lots of people identify with that I just...didn't care about. So one character won't appeal to everyone, but still.

      Thanks for reading!

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  10. I think you've hit the nail on the head there Aimee! For me, a book could have the most fantastic plot, but if I don't care about the characters, I'm not going to like it. Making readers care isn't exactly easy though... I think I stop being sympathetic as soon as I hear that a character is supernaturally beautiful/smart/kind or whenever they make silly decisions. I'm kind of fussy about my characters.
    Beth x
    www.thequietpeople.com

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    1. YES. I'm instantly turned off by the whole 'special' or 'the best ever' thing, because it feels like you're trying a little too hard to make us like the character - and I don't like being forced into liking things. xD

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  11. Yes, this is exactly right. The thing about emotions is that they are fallible—SHOULD we feel bad for the guy who killed 84 people in two days? Maybe not. (read: Yes.) But the thing is that we connect with people not necessarily with what we do but with how we feel and how we remember those feelings... And it can be hard to do. I mean, I'm on the sixth draft of my WIP and I've only just started to feel connected to my characters in any way; emotions are harder for me, and so when a filmmaker or an author can give me feels like that *snap* then I just know that it's going to be great.

    I heartily approve of this message; now I really ought to figure out how to make my own characters more sympathetic...

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    1. I, um, am personally not a fan of Loki much, so it's incredible to me how many people feel sorry for him - and that's what kind of inspired this post, haha, because I had to really think about WHY people might like him. I think it's because we can relate to some of the feelings?
      Ugh, I know the whole revision thing. I only just got to know my Pariah charries, too, because I had to start thinking about more their humanity and inner emotions and such and emotions...eh. xD

      Good luck!

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    2. I don't know... I guess I find him super sympathetic. XD He's enamored me, I suppose. But yes!

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    3. I'm the lone unsympathetic one here. xD But that's okay. He's a pretty cool villain.

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  12. Hmm...I guess I never really thought about it that way. Guess I'll really have to hit my WIP now...with feelings. HOW AM I GOING TO GET THAT TO HAPPEN? *cries*

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  13. Yes. It /is/. It's all about the human mess. Without that, no one cares. I have no more to say. You said it all.

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  14. I think the way I make people care about my characters is the same reason why I get invested in others': misery loves company. There's such natural sympathy in suffering. Needless to say, I read a lot of tearjerkers.

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  15. YESS ERMAGERD YESSSS. It's the little details. An entire tragic backstory is fine and all...but it's always the little things that hit home. I completely agree. Although it sucks when one realises no one cares about their story: BUT IT IS TRUE. *nods*
    We gotta make them care.
    *gets out axe*
    UM, I MEAN. WAIT. We make them care through writing a good book, yes.

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  16. Brilliant post and so true! The little details (especially ones like the burning doll) are the ones that really get a reader in the feels.
    Also, I tagged you for the Share the Love Challenge on my blog. Don't feel obligated or anything, but I thought I'd let you know :) http://thessalexa.blogspot.com/2015/04/share-love-ally-from-scribbling-sprite.html
    BTW, Happy Easter!


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com

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hey. hey. talk to me. i'm a fan of comments and flailing with you. go for it.