You can’t literally put the audience in your story. However, you can create a compelling emotion in your story that makes audiences see themselves in your hero. Why do people see the same movie over and over again? It’s not for the special effects or even for the interesting plot twists and story line. What makes a movie compelling is the emotional component that makes the audience feel that they’re actually living the story of the hero.
Notice how many women loved “Thelma and Louise”? The story was great, but many women saw themselves as the heroes so watching the movie helped them feel as if they were going through that same experience of being oppressed, learning to overcome, and being free just like the movie characters did.
“Wild” is about a woman overcoming her sordid past to find herself. Everyone can relate to that type of story. “Still Alice” was about a women slowly losing her mind. That’s a fear for many older people and also younger people taking care of their parents who may suffer from dementia, so this story resonated with many audiences.
Don’t try to create a wildly original story since there are no original stories. Don’t try to rely on plot twists and quirky characters to make a story interesting. Make a story where the audience can easily feel like they’re the hero too.
“Star Wars” was about a guy longing for adventure, which is something everyone can relate to. “Die Hard” was about a guy fighting against incredible odds, which many people can understand. “Frozen” was about two sisters finding love and freedom.
Now let’s look at some mediocre movies that will likely fade from memory and you’ll see that they lack a strong emotional component that makes the audience feel like they’re part of the story. Anyone feel like the story behind “Jupiter Ascending” drew them in as the hero suffering similar hardships? All those “Transformers” movies are visually interesting but emotionally empty. Beyond seeing giant robots slugging each other, there’s not much of an emotional story to make you want to see it again and again. Look at recent cartoon flops like “Turbo,” “Home,” and “Strange Magic.”
Now compare these cartoon flops to “WALL-E,” “Up,” or “Kung Fu Panda” and you’ll see a much stronger emotional component that cartoons like “Planes,” Turbo,” or “Strange Magic” lack.
Don’t get tricky and try to create a bizarre story. Create a simple story with a compelling emotional component, and then color your story with a unique background and goal. The emotional state of the hero comes first. Everything else supports that emotional story that audiences can relate to. If an audience can’t relate to your hero, your story probably isn’t as strong as it needs to be.