One of the most potent tools in a writer’s arsenal is the ability to make readers care deeply about their characters. When readers empathize with characters, they become invested in their journeys, making the story a memorable experience. Here’s how you can foster that invaluable character empathy:
1. Deepen Your Character’s Backstory:
Understanding where your character comes from and what shaped them gives depth and context to their actions and reactions.
Example: Harry Potter’s tragic past of losing his parents and living with unkind relatives makes readers sympathize with him and root for his happiness.
2. Make Them Flawed:
Perfect characters are often unrelatable. By giving your character flaws or insecurities, readers can see parts of themselves, making connections more profound.
3. Allow Them to Experience Vulnerability:
Let your character face situations where they’re out of their depth, scared, or emotional. These moments humanize them.
4. Show Their Growth:
A character who learns, evolves, and grows is a character readers can invest in. This character arc gives the readers hope and a sense of journey.
5. Use First-Person or Close Third-Person Points of View:
These perspectives allow readers to get into the character’s head, feeling their emotions and understanding their thought processes.
6. Relatable Motivations and Desires:
Even if your character is from a different world or time, their motivations (like love, revenge, acceptance) should be universally understandable.
Example: In “The Hunger Games,” Katniss Everdeen volunteers for the deadly games to save her younger sister. Her motivation of familial love is universally relatable.
7. Challenge Them:
Characters who face and overcome challenges, especially morally complex ones, can garner deep empathy. Readers respect characters who grapple with tough decisions and come out stronger.
8. Make Them Active:
Proactive characters who take charge of their fate are often more engaging than passive ones. It gives readers something to cheer for.
Character empathy isn’t just about making a likable protagonist. It’s about crafting multi-dimensional beings who resonate with readers on an emotional level. The goal is to make readers feel that, given the same set of circumstances, they might think, feel, or act in the same way as your character.