Have you ever stopped reading a novel because you didn’t like or weren’t interested in the characters or you couldn’t muster enough caring about them to stick with them for 300 pages? Here are a few tips to try to keep this reaction from happening to your readers:
1. Portray your character as a true victim. Do use caution, so you don’t venture into melodrama. People like rooting for the underdog, so opening with your character being in a terrible situation beyond her control will not only make the character sympathetic, but will engage the reader so she wonders how this character will overcome her condition. For example, the character:
— is an orphan.
— is a widow.
— has lost everyone she cares about.
— has lost everything that offers her security.
— is physically scarred.
2. The character lives in a fantasy; but for reasons beyond her control, the illusion will be demolished. Tension happens because the reader sees that there is something wrong underneath the façade. This is a typical setup for science fiction.
Note that the sympathetic characters here are not to blame for their situation. However, the reader is interested in seeing how the character overcomes. There is chance for growth; and the reader asks, “What would I do if this happened to me?” The skilled author can explore all sorts of themes with the sympathetic character, making for a fulfilling book to write and a satisfying book to read.
Who is your favorite fictional character? Why?
Who is the most sympathetic character you’ve encountered?
What tips did I miss?