Paul Bunyan was a giant lumberjack whose superhuman exploits and love for one big blue ox named Babe have been chronicled in music, plays and stories for over a century.

Leonardo Da Vinci was a future-seeing thinker, inventor, artist, musician, mathematician and engineer who envisioned machines that would not be invented for another 400 years.

Of course, Paul Bunyan is fiction. Leonardo is not. But Leonardo’s accomplishments and achievements are of a scale so great, they could easily make him seem larger than life and difficult to connect to. Leonardo’s greatness actually makes him less human.

In our work, many of our stories are similar — tales of injustice so great, environmental catastrophes so scary, poverty so gripping. These crises are so big in scale that they risk being glossed over by our audiences as “sensational” “not true” or “too big to deal with.”

In order to make things real for our audiences, Roy Williams — a brilliant communicator — urges us to find a “reality hook” — a point of contact that connects the world of abstract imagination to the world of concrete fact.

In the case of Leonardo, Roy shows a picture of the house where he died. He becomes more real when you see the place where he passed away.

Roy outlines four  ways he creates reality hooks:

  1. Connect to something the reader/listener has already experienced. Make your protagonist relatable — give them something in common with your audience. Are they someone’s sister or mother? Do they love the smell of garlic cooking? Do they struggle with the challenges of raising a child?
  2. Use terms of description that are specific and highly visual; shapes, colors, and the names of familiar things. “I saw a man pulling radishes and asked for directions. He pointed my way with a radish.”
  3. Include details that can be independently confirmed. These bits that can be confirmed lend credibility to those parts of your story that cannot be confirmed. “There’s a restaurant in Austin at 4th and Colorado called Sullivan’s. It was there that I met Kevin Spacey and Robert Duvall.”
  4. Make logical sense. People are quick to believe things that seem correct, even when those things are not true.

Thanks, Roy, as always for your brilliance!