Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction a little bit of yourself must go into what you write. If it doesn’t, your writing will be boring. Let’s look at fiction, first.
There is an old writer’s saying, “write what you know.” In other words, if you don’t have an understanding of the characters, of the time, and of the setting of your book it will feel flat and the characters will not seem real to your readers.
This does not mean that you can only write about places you have actually seen or people that you have actually met. If it did, there would be no fantasy or science fiction books. Think how much duller our lives would be without classics such as L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz or Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
But even if your book is set in a place of fantasy, the characters must feel real. They must speak and act like people that your readers can identify with; their problems must seem real to your readers. To do that, a little bit of you must go into each of your characters to make them real. They must think and act and have emotional reactions that we, the readers, can identify with. Consider a classic, the tale of King Arthur and Guinevere, which has been written about hundreds of times over the centuries. While we may love the thought of the power of being a king or queen or the adventure of being a knight on a quest, that is not what has made this story last. What we identify with are the questions of honor, loyalty and fidelity – questions that all of us may wrestle with in our own way.
Making your story real also applies to the non-fiction writer. When you are writing a book on a non-fiction topic it will be more readable if you open up and share with your reader. But a little bit of yourself in your work. A book is not a business memo, even if you are writing on a business subject. A dry style makes for dry writing. Professional should not equal boring.
So how do you do this? Put a little of yourself in your writing. Tell the reader a story; and by this I mean two things. Stories and illustrations add life to your work. They often make it easier to understand complex ideas more easily. Give real life examples of situations and problems that you have encountered and how you have solved them.
But in addition to telling the reader about yourself, the overall tone of your writing should show who you are. Put a little piece of yourself into everything that you write; give your readers a glimpse of the real person behind the pages. Try it. It will improve your writing dramatically.