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.