Sympathetic Character: 10 Writing Techniques That Make Readers Care

Recall a time you made an effort to get someone to like you. Did you attempt to get them to associate with you, or wish to invest more time with you? Its sort of the same way with the primary character in your book. When they care about what happens to the protagonist, readers end up books. To achieve this, you need to craft a supportive character.

When you write a book, youre asking readers to welcome your character into their homes, their hangouts, their lives. Its essential to develop a lead character your reader wishes to hang out with which they care about enough to stay to discover what happens to them.

Without that vital issue, suspense can not be sustained. And without suspense, the reader will dislike your story. I spoke about this in depth in my post on thriller.

Today, lets talk about how to make your readers like– if not love– your characters so that you can sustain thriller in your book.

A Case in Point

Among the first stories I ever composed was Adalet (free on Amazon). Prior to publishing, I shared it here in the workshop at The Write Practice, and got some instructional however extreme feedback. The first two paragraphs drew the reader into the story world, utilizing the information I talked about in my post about hooking the reader.

Adalet is a decent individual, putting her life on the line for a worthwhile cause. But shes a flat-out liar. I understood if readers provided her a chance, was familiar with her and comprehend why she does what she does, they d be on her side.

Nevertheless, I misfired on the 2nd fundamental essential– ensuring my reader might understand with my protagonist.

It took some time for readers to see that she might be a sympathetic character. Time I couldnt pay for to spend.

However readers dont patiently wait for a reason to like and care about your character throughout the course of a story. Youve lost them if you do not produce an understanding character right up front.

Beyond lying, my Adalet did horrible and incomprehensible things. Her reasons are exposed layer by layer, but few readers would persevere long enough to find them.

Its All About the Reader

I had a problem. To fix it, I thought about something my coach, Dean Wesley Smith, is always driving house to me– there are readers on the other side of my words. Taking a look at the opening scenes of Adalet and putting myself in the readers location, I asked:

To resolve my problem with Adalet, I used some of the strategies well be discussing in this short article. Lets look initially at how to establish a strong connection in between your reader and your primary character– ideas that will assist you make your protagonist supportive.

Would I like Adalet sufficient to desire to spend a storys length of time with her?
Does she stir enough empathy in me so that I appreciate what occurs to her?
Is there anything about her that rallies me to her side?
Is she likeable, or is she an unsympathetic character?

I saw plenty of reasons to be curious about what she was doing, which can take a reader part method. To sustain a readers forward movement through your story, you need more. You need to provide your reader a reason to invest in your heros result. Theyll root for them to get what they desire prior to the plot ends when they do.

When you make your characters supportive, you give your reader engaging reasons to keep turning pages to discover what happens.

You need to ground your reader inside your perspective characters head. This pulls the reader deep into the world of your story. You need to make them care about what takes place to your character.

The Character Connection

Your two primary objectives upon starting any story are to:

Solidly ground your reader in the setting and perspective character, and
Forge an emotional connection in between the reader and your main character strong enough that your reader will appreciate what happens to them

A character with an edge.

The glib answer here is to develop a pleasant character, and nine times out of ten, thatll be an excellent way to go. That tenth time, you might require to create a character thats not pleasant, yet somehow still intriguing and interesting enough that readers will want to invest time getting to understand them.

Remember, fictional characters– like genuine individuals and onions– have layers. Your reader will discover something to bond with if you can portray those layers well.

In this post, well discuss 10 methods you can decide on from to get your reader in the cheering circle, standing by your character to the extremely last page.

Presentation, combined with actions, reveals character.

Despite certain repellent characteristics, your reader should form some sort of bond with them. This implies readers will have something to relate or admire to in the character. Consider Walter White in Breaking Bad or Michael Corleone in The Godfather. Theyre not precisely great men, but they do begin with reasons for doing the bad things that they do.

Who doesnt succumb to the gruff curmudgeon with a heart of gold? Crusty and suggest to all outside appearances, his behavior reveals unsuspected depths of compassion or honor. Or the smug know-it-all whos pertaining to terms with the awareness that he actually doesnt know it all.

10 Writing Techniques to Craft Sympathetic Characters

There are suggestions writers can use to craft a considerate character. Particularly, I think there are ten techniques that finest do this, each of which I explain in depth with examples below.

1. Give Your Character a Hidden Wound

When a reader sees your character battle with a secret defect– or an unpleasant ghost that wont be put to rest– it brings out the compassion in them. As do moments of vulnerability, weakness, or solitude.

Another angle on this is having a character who made mistakes in the past and is regretting them now. Weve all remained in this situation so its simple to relate and have compassion.

In Daphne DuMauriers Rebecca, the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter fights her own vulnerability and the ghost of her predecessor, amassing sensations of compassion as well as loads of suspense. Heres a short excerpt:

Reading this, our hearts go out to the timid woman who should stroll in the shadow of the glorious Rebecca. We feel compassion for the orphaned paid companion who discovers herself all of a sudden cast as girl of the manor, a function for which she is ill prepared and which terrifies her.

I wanted to be a visitor on the road, a bride-to-be in love with her husband. Not myself coming to Manderley for the very first time, the partner of Maxim de Winter.”

As the story unfolds, validating her horror, our sympathy grows in percentage with the suspense, and we continue reading with increased issue and curiosity to see what occurs.

All of us have concealed injuries, whether scarred over or still healing, and reading about somebody battling with the same type of feelings resonates and makes us care about that character.

2. How Your Character Treats Others Matters

Its always a great idea to reveal readers how your protagonist treats others. When we see someone behaving with compassion and consideration, it produces comparable feelings in ourselves. Doing this provides your character a minimum of one redeeming quality, shows hes not a bad person, and asks readers to give him a possibility.

When your characters compassion is extended to children, animals, or the elderly, our esteem for that character increases. This is due to the fact that in our culture:

Similarly, in a world where the senior are so often marginalized and considered no longer capable of important contributions, a character who requires time to serve and uplift an older person will earn points in the compassionate column.

Think of the relationship that develops between Hoke and the senior female he serves in Driving Miss Daisy. Or the love and regard Laura shows towards her blind and aging mom in Sleeping With The Enemy. Or how Dan Torrance, in his function as a hospice organized, utilizes his shining to comfort his elderly, passing away patients in Dr. Sleep.

Children represent innocence. We naturally like and care about someone who associates with kids, plays with them, likes them and is liked in return.
We appreciate those who treat animals well, and something in our nature convinces us that animals are great judges of character.
A character who hangs around in genuine issue over an older individuals well-being earns our warmth and regard.

When your character authentically cares about kids and treats them well, we authentically like and appreciate that character.

How your character deals with others will figure out if we like them. Specifically if that “other” is a child, an animal, or a senior individual.

Think of Dr. Malcolm Crowe in The Sixth Sense, and how he treats his kid patient with regard and genuine concern. Or how Dr. Alan Grant looks and safeguards after the two threatened kids in Jurassic Park..

A terrific example is when the prickly character, Melvin, cares for his next-door neighbors dog in As Good As It Gets. The pet dog even forgives Melvin for throwing him down the trash chute, showing hes ferreted out Melvins true nature– the one he keeps hidden beneath the rough outside.

On some level, each of us feels the technique of old age and can value and admire a character who invests time and effort into looking after the senior.

Despite who your lead character helps, writers who display how their main character deals with others with courtesy, regard, and authentic affection will encourage readers to care about that character and what takes place to them.

Rating bonus offer points when the habits is turned towards kids, animals, and the aging.

In a comparable vein, if your character animals the canine and the pet dog responds with affection, that decreases in our book as approval.

3. Characters Who Makes Sacrifices.

Having your character help others, particularly at a cost to themself, will create appeal and assistance for that character.

Believe of Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive, who puts himself at threat numerous times to assist those who are hurt. In the middle of a horrendous bus/train wreck, he skates the narrow edge of danger to save the life of a prison guard and later threats direct exposure when he details the mans injuries to an ambulance crew.

He didnt need to do these things. His interests were much better served by leaving those regrettable victims to their fate, however our regard for him escalates when he risks his own security for the sake of strangers.

The human reaction is to assist others in times of problem. When your reader sees your character connecting to assist someone in requirement, they wont have the ability to assist taste that character. And if that assistance needs a sacrifice on their part, that love will solidify into respect and concern for the characters own wellness.

Showing your character carrying out selfless acts to assist others is an effective method to secure reader support and make sure your reader cares.

In another scene, he saves a passing away kid and in doing so, draws the attention of a suspicious ER doctor, almost getting himself caught.

4. A Victim of Undeserved Misfortune.

In Sleeping With The Enemy, Laura is the victim of a managing and abusive hubby. We notice her inherent goodness, see her efforts to please, and our compassion goes out to her as she struggles, trapped in a problem relationship.

As humans, were wired to feel compassion for victims, specifically if their bad luck is undeserved. Readers feel immediate empathy for such a character, and typically recognize with the victim, in some method feeling their discomfort.

This is an exceptional way to get the reader in a strong assistance position behind your lead character.

Undeserved misery creates instantaneous compassion in many readers. Its in our nature.

For an example of how its been successfully done, lets go once again to the motion pictures.

There are a hundred various methods for making this happen. The list may include bullying and brutality, prejudice, abuse, abandonment, rejection, hardship, incorrect allegations, psychological or physical disability, death of an enjoyed one, or some other kind of disastrous loss.

As each element of her victimization is exposed– the hard-fisted control, the way he controls, breaches, and threatens her– we care increasingly more about seeing her escape and we invest in enjoying to see how it happens.

5. A Misunderstood Character.

The plot thickens, the risk grows, and by the last third of the motion picture, Kyle herself begins to question if shes gone insane. Were behind her every action of the method, though, yearning for her vindication, and it feels so good when it comes.

Few things stir us to the heated defense of a character like seeing him misinterpreted when we understand hes. The vulnerability, indignation, and aggravation can be palpable.

All of us understand what its like to be misunderstood, and structure that into your character is a powerful method to make your reader care about what happens.

In the movie Flight Plan, the protagonist, a woman called Kyle Pratt, boards a plane with her young child as they accompany her hubbys body back to the States for burial. Quickly after, the daughter disappears, and nobody thinks Kyle when she says her child is missing.

6. An Underdog.

One of my preferred examples is The Shawshank Redemption.

In prison, Andy suffers pain, embarrassment, isolation, despair, and a great deal of other bad things, giving him every reason to sink and never ever increase once again. He shows us his hidden strength and determination to dominate the obstacles in his life. Whats more, he shares his occasional windfalls with his fellow inmates, winning their assistance. And ours.

Its tough not to like a great underdog story. One way or another, we can all associate with the downtrodden character who increases versus overwhelming odds.

Making your character the underdog is an ultra-effective way to protect your readers compassion and make him care.

The darker it gets for Andy, the more we rally behind him, thirsting for victory. A well-written underdog story rouses the readers compassion like no other, so put this one in your toolbox and do not forget to use it when called for.

Andy Dufresne is an innocent man, sent to prison for the murder of his other half and her lover. That alone gets our sympathy, but thats only the beginning. To make your character an underdog, you need to really stack the odds versus him.

If you d like to see a more detailed breakdown of the underdog story in The Shawshank Redemption, go here.

7. Highly Competent.

A character who excels at some skill influences our affection and liking, whether enthusiastically or hesitantly offered.

Dont think me? Ever seen an episode of House?

These people are clearly supreme in their picked arenas. We cant assist but like them and care about what takes place to them.

Heres one of my individual favorites– Patrick Jane in The Mentalist.

This is because the character motivates self-confidence. We like being able to relax and watch a smooth operator at work, somebody who really knows their things. A superlative professional is a happiness to see in action, and when we know a character can deliver, theyve made our appreciation and we want them to prosper.

Readers end up books that are driven by considerate characters. To craft your own, consider one (or more!) of these 10 essential composing methods.

He is so in command of his observation skills and its excellent enjoyable to enjoy as he shows his prowess. I like his fascinating character and care a lot about what occurs to him that Ive seen every episode of the series. Twice.

Making your character fantastic at something is one method to employ reader support and caring.

Not a fluffy or warm character, Dr. House nonetheless makes our grudging respect and we discover ourselves appreciating him more and more as the series continues.

8. Breaks Type.

Do not overlook the value of pushing your protagonist against the envelope to gain reader compassion for your character.

When you set up your lead character, try delineating their convenience zone and then requiring them outside it. This perks a compassionate action from us and inspires us to care what takes place to them because weve all been there at some point in our own experience.

When Bilbo strikes out on a dangerous objective, we understand hes stretching himself in uncomfortable ways and this gets our assistance and interest.

We remember what it feels like to be exposed, scrambling for equilibrium in a hostile environment.

The majority of us dont like getting out of our comfort zone and we admire and care about a character whos prepared to stretch his neck out for a deserving cause. Furthermore, this type of character excites our interest and empathy, even when the character is pushed out of their safe space instead of venturing out voluntarily.

My coach taught me this idea by mentioning a quintessential example– The Hobbit. Hobbits are homebodies. They like to nestle down in the Shire, eat an impressive number of meals a day, and remain comfortable and safe. They are not adventurers.

9. A Sense of Humor.

Think Of Daniel Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. He had us laughing, liking, and caring about the fate of a family, clear to the end of the film, in spite of his quick temper and irregular behavior. His sense of humor wins us over long enough for his other capitivating qualities to kick in and seal the offer.

Everybody enjoys to laugh. Even in a tense action film, we invite those minutes of comic relief, and we embrace a character who can make us laugh.

Readers enjoy to hang around with a character who tickles the funnybone and gets them chuckling. Such a character welcomes readers to care and like about them.

Or take a look at the method Guido Orefice kept his sense of humor through the most tough and not likely of circumstances for the sake of his child, in Life is Beautiful. That decision to discover the amusing behind the grim, in order to protect the innocence and happiness of his young son, steals our hearts and gets our support.

Your lead character may be abrasive or bumbling, however if they are truly amusing, readers will want to hang around them.

10. Another Character Likes Your Protagonist (and That Love is Returned).

Whatever strategies you select from this list, crafting a considerate character is essential to grounding your readers in your book and making them appreciate what occurs to the protagonist until the end of the story.

Prior to we go, lets recap what weve seen so far in this series of posts about The Elements of Suspense.

When readers see that other characters worth, admire, and care about your protagonist, they will too.

Love in between characters, specifically household and buddies, generates warm feelings in your reader also. Revealing how other characters in the story like and value your lead character, and how the protagonist reacts in a positive way, even if reluctantly, allows your reader to reciprocate with comparable feelings.

You are primed and all set to develop a strong structure for a exceptional and compelling story powered by thriller. By discovering and practicing the concepts and ideas in these articles, you are constructing your authors toolbox.

You cant avoid this action. An understanding character can make or break your book. Thats why this post is so essential– the strategies in it can assist you avoid an error that might prevent your readers from reading forward.

Building a Strong Foundation with a Sympathetic Character is Crucial.

You now know why suspense is crucial in any sort of story.
Youve learned what suspense is and why and how it works to drive a reader forward through your story.
Youve discovered how to begin a book to pull a reader into your story, and your characters perspective so they wont wish to put your book down.
And now youve found out how to make your reader care about what takes place to your lead character.

In the Hitchcock classic, Rear Window, Lisa is plainly affectionate towards Jeff, and though he at first quelches his feelings for her, we see the deeper truth of his love as the story unfolds. Jeffs observations of his next-door neighbors, numerous affected with isolation and solitude, appear to soften his resistance to marriage. This allows him to a minimum of partially reciprocate Lisas feelings.

This exchange of love increases our liking for the both of them and increases our issue over what takes place to them.

Dont attempt packing all of these strategies into one character, however select a judicious mix of a few and construct them into your viewpoint character. This will permit readers to attach and invest emotionally in the character. In doing so, theyll be pulled into the story and the characters world, and gotten ready for an un-put-down-able reading experience.

You are preparing to compose your best work ever!


You need to ground your reader inside your perspective characters head. Doing this offers your character at least one redeeming quality, shows hes not a bad man, and asks readers to offer him an opportunity.

Which of the eleven strategies for crafting an understanding character do you like the majority of? Why? Inform us all about it in the comments!

Use the character youve established for the book youre composing along with this series, designed in the last posts workout. Do it now if you have not created a character yet!

When your reader sees your character reaching out to help someone in need, they will not be able to assist preference that character. Readers complete books that are driven by supportive characters. Dont attempt packing all of these strategies into one character, however pick a sensible combination of a few and develop them into your viewpoint character.

Do not forget to bookmark this page and look for future articles. Do not hesitate to let us understand how everything is choosing you in the comments.

You may post your work in the remarks and get some feedback from the community when youre completed. Dont forget to provide feedback for your fellow authors! We learn best by assisting one another.

Pick a strategy from todays article. Now, invest fifteen minutes composing three or four paragraphs developed to get a readers compassion and make them appreciate your character.

Any day where she can send out readers to the edge of their seats, prickling with thriller and chewing their fingernails to the nub, is a good day for Joslyn. Get her most current thriller,.
Steadmans Blind, an explosive read that will keep you turning pages to the end.
No Rest: 14 Tales of Chilling Suspense, Joslyns latest collection of short thriller, is readily available totally free at.

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