Wednesday, February 10, 2010

9 traits of sympathetic characters

Darcy Pattison has a series up about sympathetic characters (and good villains). Here's the first part of the one on what makes characters sympathetic--something you need to do to keep readers engaged:

Help Your Readers Identify with Your Characters. We tend to identify with characters who are like us in some way. They play certain roles in a family, do certain types of work, are concerned about things we are concerned about. In my story, G is a big brother who is forced to take care of his little sisters, and does it well, almost heroically well. He’s making sacrifices to do this, which helps also. The problem is that G must leave his sisters behind when he goes on a quest. So, I’ve got to work hard after that to keep him sympathetic.
  1. Physical Descriptions. We like beautiful people. Graceful. Striking. Attractive. The problem here is not to over do it and not to rely on it.
  2. Altruism. Orson Scott Card, in his classic Characters and Viewpoint, describes three levels of altruism, or the unselfish concern for the welfare of others. (BTW, did you know that Card has a new book out in the Ender series, Ender in Exile? If you’re an Ender fan, you gotta read it!)
    • Victim: A character who is the victim of suffering (jeopardy, pain, evil) will evoke sympathy, but also pity for his/her weakness and a touch of contempt for allowing him/herself to become a victim.
Here's the rest.

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