4 Ways Writers Can Make Their Personal Drama Relatable

by Reesy Floyd-Thompson

Writers are often taught the first rule of writing is, “Write what you know,” and the second rule is, “Specialize.” But what if what you know represents the worst of society, or inspires strong not-so-nice opinions?

What if what you know has been the source of a lot of pain and shame, or your specialty is just plain unpopular?

Hold on to your keyboards folks, my drama is a doozy.

My husband is incarcerated.

More to the point, I’m married to a murderer.

If you have read this far, breathe. The worst is over.

Having this reality does not make me one of the cool kids, but living this reality provides the setting for lots of interesting stories.

How do I take what I know and turn it into something the average person might care about? When I write about my life, I write with C.A.R.E.

Try these four techniques to make your personal drama more relatable:

1. Write Commonalities. We are constantly bombarded with messages on how we are not the same. But sameness helps us relate to each other.

Write the synonyms of humanity by focusing on universal themes of love, marriage, commitment, happiness, pain, and forgiveness. In my writing, I draw parallels with long-distance relationships or long deployments. Tap into those things people understand and the part they don’t understand becomes less relevant.

2. Write Authentically. I love true crime stories and this one is no exception. I’m honest about all aspects of this life, from the good (yes, there is some) to the absolute horrific.  By showing I’m a “real” person, it helps minimize fear and misconceptions.

Authenticity is twofold. Be genuine in telling your story but allow the audience to be genuine in their response, which may include harsh criticism. Relatable doesn’t mean writing to make people like you. It simply means telling your story in such a way it strikes a chord with your audience, even if that chord is anger.

3. Roast Yourself. When you read my big reveal, it probably conjured up the image of women feverishly hanging on at the prison gates for the next notorious serial killer. Let me assure you, I’m not that girl.

However, I’m an African-American woman with a man in prison–a walking, talking cliché. I wasn’t voted most likely to have a man in prison, yet here I sit with this reality. I don’t take myself too seriously and neither should you. Humor is the best way to crack the veneer of “We have nothing in common” and get to the core of kindness.

4. Expand Your Message. The ups and downs of having an incarcerated spouse have all the elements of an epic love story (take it from me), but focusing squarely on this angle is not the way to reach a broader audience. Crime affects all of us in one way or another, from increasing property values to diminishing neighborhoods and schools, which affects education.

And what about convictions of the truly innocent? Are we all at risk? Open your message. Use research and hard statistics to expand and emphasize your point.

We all have unique personal drama. By using a little C.A.R.E., freelance writers can specialize in the art of making their story relevant, no matter how unrelatable it may seem.

What personal drama would you like to write about? Leave a comment and share your story.

 

Reesy Floyd-Thompson lives a double life. She is a freelance writer and marketing consultant who specializes in public relations writing at ReesyFloyd-Thompson.com. Reesy is also the founder of Prisoners’ Wives, Girlfriends, & Partners (PWGP). She blogs and writes a monthly column about life with an incarcerated husband.

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23 comments on “4 Ways Writers Can Make Their Personal Drama Relatable
  1. Cindi says:

    Reesy – thank you for your willingness to share the methods you use to write about your life. A beautiful mitzvah.

    Carol – thank you for allowing Reesy to be your guest today.

  2. Diana says:

    Love these tips, especially “Expand Your Message”. I will start applying them to take thw quality of my writing to the next level. Thanks, Diana
    Diana recently posted…Graco Sarah Classic 4-in-1 Convertible CribMy Profile

  3. Patrice says:

    This is an extremely well written piece with some great advice. I love Reesy’s openness, and the way she has overcome a difficult time in her life. She proves that attitude is everything! I wish her all the best with her business ( she has a great website,by the way) and her life. Blessings!

  4. Christen says:

    Reesy, you rock!! I’m so touched by your courage. In the past I’ve gone through intense times of practicing bringing shameful and painful parts of my life into relationship and into the open, but I’ve been finding that as I get serious about writing, I still have to face wanting to hide! And it’s not always about the big stuff, either. So I’ve been contemplating being “whole” and authentic in my writing, and wondering at the same time how to use my stories without making it all about me. Your post was a wonderful guide to doing that. Thanks!!
    Christen
    P.S. You are a talented writer!!
    Christen recently posted…Memory and the MusesMy Profile

  5. Lois says:

    Most of us have secret selves.

  6. Sheila Munoz says:

    I was married 20 years to a church youth director who ultimately became a very popular pastor. We had 3 children. When my nephew tried to commit suicide, it all came out that my now ex-husband was a homosexual/pedophile. Over the years he had molested dozens of boys, 2 of which ended up committing suicide. I started writing a novel about all of this, but got bogged down several years ago. Now that there is more distance between what happened and the present, I feel at a better place to write about it. There are other women out there for whatever reason wakes up one day after many years (sometimes decades) of what they thought was a beautiful marriage to find out they don’t know the man they eat breakfast with every day. Your post will help me to look harder at my writing and make sure it fits in with C.A.R.E. Thank you!

    • Dear Sheila

      There is an agent/author who has a blog called Shattering the Silence. His name is Cec Murphy. He has written books that may help you to deal with these issues. His blog is encouraging as well – focused on male sexual abuse, but one of his books deals with women who are married to men who have been abused. I am sure some of the content would be helpful for your nephew and his family. I will pray for you and your family in this. You are right. This is an important story to tell. Abuse leaves scars, but there is healing for abuse. There is a way that God can restore the ashes of our lives into things of beauty. Nothing is impossible for Him.

      Heather
      Heather Marsten recently posted…All You Need Is LoveMy Profile

      • Carol Tice says:

        Wow. This has been an eye-opening day for me, seeing all the pain and tragedy my readers are overcoming every day. I’m sending you all big hugs.

        It’s not always fun times at my house, but I did at least have a fairly ordinary, abuse-free childhood. So that’ll be my thing to be thankful for today.

  7. Connie Read Burris says:

    Reesy,

    You are one courageous woman! I applaud you for showing how your C.A.R.E. technique makes all the difference in revealing your reality.

    I’m a newbie writer and your post has inspired me to keep writing.
    Thank you!

  8. Anna says:

    Indeed, valuable tips! And the story is..I just couldn’t stop reading it. It kept my body and soul in front of the laptop!
    Anna recently posted…tooth veneers costMy Profile

  9. First let me apologize for not being at my home computer so you could at least see the “real” me and not an avatar. Thank you all for your kind words. I must admit every time you put yourself out there, it’s scary to look back to see what people are saying.

    I’m a newbie in the writing world. I’m honored to have this opportunity from Carol, even more so that you find the information useful.

    ~Reesy

  10. Anne Wayman says:

    Reesy, I’ve written about my own alcoholism and recovery from it and other addictions for years – mostly aimed at those who are in roughly the same position (powerfullyrecovered.com), but I’ve learned to incorporate those lessons in much of my writing just as you have.

    And many of the lessons are more universal than is immediately obvious.

    Nice to meet you, and thanks for being so open.

    A
    Anne Wayman recently posted…Maybe You Don’t Want To Be A Freelance Writer After AllMy Profile

  11. It is true, if you write with Care, people will care about your story. I am working on a memoir detailing the journey I took in my healing from abuse I received as a child. I pray that it helps other survivors and provides encouragement. I also pray that it shows those who never faced those challenges what it is like to live in those situations, hoping they are more supportive of other survivors.

    Have a blessed day.
    Heather
    Heather Marsten recently posted…Abba, FatherMy Profile

  12. Dani says:

    This is right on time. I’m a blogger, not considering myself a writer yet, but I posted about some personal pregnancy related drama just today! I could’ve used these tips yesterday! LOL
    Dani recently posted…Scary TuesdayMy Profile

  13. CJ McKinney says:

    This is a really good post. I teach writing and many of my students want to write personal essays and memoirs so I’d definitely share this with them. I’ve been searching for a way to tell my own story, which has to do with living with my former sister in law, who has diogenes syndrome — the disorder that leads people to live in filth and squalor. With your points here, I think I can find a way to do that. I’m glad to have found your post, Reesy!

  14. Jean Gogolin says:

    This was quite an amazing post. Many thanks for running it, Carol. and Reese, you are one classy and gutsy lady.
    Jean Gogolin recently posted…Writers, here’s how to eavesdrop – and whyMy Profile

  15. Reesy – I have to echo Lillian – WOW! Great topic, great story and interesting perspective. Thank you so much for sharing your pain in a way it can be understood and appreciated. And I hugely commend you for turning your heartache into something positive for you and your readers. What a win/win.

    This is particularly timely for me, because I tried to do the same with my blog post this week – both at my blog and for HuffPo. ‘Doctor Makes A HUGE Mistake’, is about my own personal drama with my mother, that I now want to re-read to see if I wrote it with CARE. Thanks for sharing.

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm
    Amy Parmenter recently posted…Doctor Makes A HUGE MistakeMy Profile

  16. Wow! This is a powerful and beautifully written piece. Thanks for the lesson – you have the gift and communicated what you wanted to express. It will stick with me.

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