There is a somewhat common, and somewhat cruel practice often found in writing. Author’s of novels, movies, and even advertisements use this tactic. First, take the main character of your story, next think of the worst possible thing you can do to him/her. And then finally, do it. This was recently done in The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It isn’t a new practice though. Wuthering Heights, Star Wars Episode 3, Gladiator, The Truman Show, etc. all employ this style of story telling. Even advertisements have dabbled with this strategy. I think we will all remember the Superbowl spot Bud Light produced 2 years ago where a rancher loses his puppy.
This ad put both the dog and the owner through the refiner’s fire. People loved it! We love these narratives, we eat them up! But why? Is it because humans are pessimistic, sadistic or revel in others misfortunes? Quite the opposite.
I suppose there are many reasons people enjoy these kind of stories. It is encouraging to watch someone overcome obstacles on their way to success, after all everyone loves an underdog. But I believe more than this, we are attracted to vulnerability.
In all of our day to day encounter’s people put up a front. Ask someone who is suffering how they are, and they will respond “fine”. It is rare to find vulnerability. So when we see the layers of someones life peeled back to reveal the raw, human emotion and vulnerability underneath, we are instinctively pulled in. People relate to vulnerability, and for writers it is important to learn how to incorporate vulnerability into your writing.
So want to make your story’s more compelling? Wether you’re writing a novel, a blog post, an ad, telling a joke, or a personal story on a first date there is a sure way to do this. Pursue vulnerability.