Arts & Entertainment, Writing
Connecting to Your Reader
Lesson time 13:14 min
David gives you tips for making yourself relatable as a protagonist in your essays. He also covers how to structure the humor and content of your writing so that audiences can find something to connect to.
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Topics include: Don't Build an Essay Around a Laugh • Notice Your Reactions • You Can't Control the Reader's Perception • Laugh at Yourself • Don't Pander
[MUSIC PLAYING] - You have to connect with people on some level, or they're probably not going to give you more than one shot, right? They're probably not going to read more than one thing that you wrote if they can't connect with you. I know that there are certain contemporary writers that I don't feel that the people they're writing about are real to me. They just seem like writing exercises to me, so I have a hard time connecting with their work. I think it's a bit different now as well, when I was a young man growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, there were no books about gay men in the library. I mean, there might have been in the psychiatry-- you know, in the deviant psychiatry section, there might have been a couple of case studies. But there weren't novels. There weren't short story collections, nothing. So I had to learn to relate to people just because they were human. I would read a novel or a short story collection, and I could relate to it because this person was living in the world, and I was living in the world. And I feel like now, people want more of a mirror, right? They want to see themselves in the book that they're reading, right? So if I'm going to read a book, I need it to be about a gay man who's 62 who lives in England in the country, but has a place in London. And I'd have to just read my own books, I think, if that was going to be the case. But it's interesting to read something and then ask yourself why you relate to it, right? What is it about this that touches me or that-- that has meaning to me? [MUSIC PLAYING] I mean, I'm constantly thinking, what can I cut out here? What could go? And sometimes, you wind up-- this will often happen. You'll have a laugh line. And then you'll say, well, I'm keeping this because it's a laugh. But then what we wind up doing is constructing an essay around a laugh, and it never works. It's better just to let go of that laugh or use it for something else later. But I've made that mistake before, just trying to salvage a laugh, and then just heaping all this crap on either end of it. And then by the time you get to the laugh, nobody's even going to laugh, because they've just waded through all this crap to get to it, and they've already left you. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think it's important to be honest in your reactions to things. I think more people can relate to you. For example, I had an editor at "The New Yorker" who announced to me one day that he'd been working in magazine for a long time, and he's a wonderful writer of his own, Jeffrey Frank. He's a novelist, and he's written several non-fiction books. And he said, I'm leaving, and I'm really looking forward to it. This is going to give me more time to concentrate on my work, and so it's something I've been looking forward to for a long time. And I said, that's great. But my reaction was, what about me? Like, I need you. Basically, my reaction was-- my private reaction was, I need you to sta...
About the Instructor
With essays in The New Yorker, bestselling books like Calypso, tours, and readings on NPR, David Sedaris is one of the most recognizable essayists alive. Now he teaches you the art of personal storytelling. Learn how David crafts attention-grabbing openings, satisfying endings, and meaning from the mundane—and how he uses humor to connect with others and process the difficult and sometimes dark aspects of everyday life.
Featured Masterclass Instructor
NYT–bestselling author David Sedaris teaches you how to turn everyday moments into seriously funny stories that connect with audiences.Explore the Class