I feel so sad for all the people affected by the tsunami in Japan. I hope the worst has passed and the people can start healing.
On that note, today I wanted to write a little about empathy.
Last Thursday, I was reading a book with my three-year-old son while his big sisters were at school. He stopped me, mid-sentence and said, "I wish [big sister] was a boy."
I asked him, "Why do you wish she was a boy?"
He replied, "Because it hurts her head when you brush her hair."
So sweet. He wasn't thinking of how cool it would be to have a big brother, he was worried about the pain his sister goes through every morning when we brush out her long tangley hair.
The conversation got me thinking about empathy.
I've read several books lately where I was unable to connect with the main characters. The authors tried to create sympathetic characters. The ingredients were there, (sad past, dismal looking future, and a lot of personality), but for some reason the characters didn't work for me.
Then I read I AM THE MESSENGER, by Markus Zusak. WOW. I was so invested in the main character. I felt his pain. I wanted him to find happiness. And because I was felt so much empathy for the main character I loved the book.
When I write a character I try to make her real. I try to make her likable. I want the reader to care about what happens to her. I don't always succeed.
I wish I could give you a checklist for "how to create characters that people care about," but the truth is I have no idea how to do it. For me, sometimes a character works, and sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes half of the readers love him and the other half don't. It's something I'm working hard to get right in my current WIP.
So, since I have no easy answers, I'll ask you.
How do you create characters people will care about?
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