Monday, September 22, 2014

Why Do We Care?


Why do we turn the page? Because we care about what happens to the character. Somehow, an author has fleshed out a character so well that we want to know how they deal with the conflict that has come against them. As authors, how do we make our readers care?

I came across a book recently with some really good information on this. Creating Character: Bringing Your Story to Life by William Bernhardt is an excellent resource. I'm just going to highlight Chapter Eight today: Making Readers Care.

Bernhardt likens this subject to meeting new people at a party. Some people you want to spend the entire evening with, talking to them and getting to know them.  Other guests make you want to suddenly see someone across the room you need to speak to so you can get away. "Characters are like that too. There are many ways to cause a reader to like your character."

Readers tend to admire characters who exhibit the following traits:

1. The Expert. Demonstrate that your protagonist is very good at what he or she does.
2. The Clown. Another reliable way to attract readers to your character is to give them a sense of     
3. The Saint. Show your character committing an act of kindness.
4. The Underdog. Readers root for the underdog.
5. The Loved One. There are many virtues, but the greatest of these is love.
6. The Empath. Even someone outside of a relationship can be loving - and we admire those who

Bernhardt expounds on these traits in his book, and suggests that we don't use all of these---pick one or two. "These are primarily ways to cause the reader to admire your character until you provide more profound reasons."  Check out Creating Character by William Bernhardt here.

Any other suggestions about how to make our readers care?

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  1. Love this sweet and short review of characters. I read a book recently that had soooo much potential. The author had some great characters, but in the end she let some of the bad guys/peripheral characters do something while the hero watched. You just can't let things happen to the right people--you have to allow them to act without directing them. It's a tough line, but when it's done well it works.

    1. Good point, Lisa. My daughter read through my WIP this weekend and tagged a couple of places with "Really? Would that dude really do that?" She thought it didn't jive with the character I'd built up for him. Glad for her input.

  2. Good points here! The best books are the ones where you understand why the characters do what they do.

    1. Especially when we identify with the struggle.

  3. This comes in handy, as I'm embarking on a new book this month. I'll have to pick this one up. Thanks!