To tell a truly compelling story readers will connect with, we as the writers first have to feel that connection.
Sometimes, this comes effortlessly, but writing a book is a long process ─ as they say, writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint ─ so there is likely to be moments during the process where you lose that sense of connection and need to re-engage with it.
As a writer, you’re shifting between your own reality and the reality of your story, so anything that can help you get in touch with that world will make your writing stronger.
These tricks will help you capture, nurture, and reignite that connection whenever it goes weak.
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How to Feel Connected to Your Story
The first thing I do when I’m developing a new project is to create a mood board for it. It’s a great way to bring the world and characters that are forming in my head into our tangible reality.
This process not only brings me more clarity for the story and characters but also gives me an anchor I can return to whenever I’m starting to feel disconnected from it. I look at my WIP’s mood board before every writing session (and usually leave it open WHILE I’m writing) to renew the connection and keep it as strong as possible.
The most important thing to keep in mind when creating a story mood board is to make sure the images evoke the FEELING of the story rather than simply looking for literal representations of elements from it. That’s how you create the emotional connection you need to tap into the magic of your story on demand.
You can include images of:
- The story’s setting(s)
- Special moments/scenes
Feel free to make multiple mood boards, too, such as character-specific boards, ones for each setting, a romantic pairing, etc.
There’s nothing quite as powerful as music to evoke emotion. If you don’t already utilize custom playlists to help your writing process, I definitely recommend it. You can create your own playlists for free on Spotify or YouTube.
Put together a playlist of music that evokes the feel of your story as a whole, specific scenes, and characters. I do a mix of regular music and movie scores to capture the vibe of my projects. If you aren’t sure where to start, look for movie/television scores and soundtracks from works similar to yours and go from there.
Ambient noise is another great way to step into the world of your story beyond just music. This refers to recordings of sounds from specific places, like a coffee shop during a rainy day or a busy city street in the 18th century. Some ambient artists pair them with music, too, which creates an even deeper experience. One of my favorites is the Ambient Worlds channel on YouTube.
Our environment has a profound effect on how we feel and the same is true for fiction. The atmosphere can influence the mood and have many other effects on the story as a whole. Making it feel as real to you as possible is super effective at helping you connect more to the story and transport yourself to its world.
If you can, explore the location or ones similar to it in real life to pick up on details and soak up what it feels like. If you can’t, though, don’t sweat it. We live in the amazing age of the internet, so you can do a lot of exploring without ever leaving your home.
To explore settings that inspire your story, check out:
- Travel vlogs
- Home tours that your characters would live in
- Movies and TV shows set in the same or a similar setting
- Blog posts, books, and other real accounts of what it’s like to experience a certain place
You can also gather photos and create a mood board just for the location, and as I mentioned in the last section, look for some ambient tracks that capture the sounds of it.
Mood boards, music, and atmosphere can all help evoke the emotion of your story, but if you want to take it a step further, there are some other things you can do, too.
One way is to step into your characters’ headspace to write journal entries from their perspective. Exploring how they feel about something to these depths can give you a more complex picture of who they are and help you discover things you may not have realized by simply writing out the scenes of your book.
Another option is to write “bonus” scenes that won’t appear in the book but will help you explore other sides of your characters by putting them in various situations to see how they react, or by writing out pivotal moments in their backstory that aren’t necessary to include at length in the final draft.
To submerge myself in what I’m writing, I find it very helpful to read and watch other fiction that has the same essence as my WIP to get my creative juices flowing.
Different writers have different opinions about this ─ for some, they prefer to stay completely away from anything similar in nature to what they’re working on so they aren’t too heavily influenced or tempted to copy someone else’s work.
For others (like myself), it actually helps me step out of my own echo chamber and come up with fresh ideas because I feel more connected to the spirit of what I am writing, and feeling that creative energy of other artists inspires me to think outside the box.
You don’t even have to stick to things in the same genre. Seek out anything that you feel a connection to and brings up the feelings of the story inside of you. Researching historical and technical aspects of your story can help bring the world of it alive to you, too.
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.” ─ Jim Jarmusch