Sympathetic Characters

It’s kind of bad when you’re writing away and you begin to have zero sympathy for one of your main characters. I guess writers tend to feel like their characters are their children and they want to spoil them and give them nice things rather than put them through hell and make them interesting to readers.

Basically, I need to give this character a bit more hell in his life so it doesn’t feel like he’s moping around and whining about trivial things and acting like a pest.

Brainstorming ideas on how to make characters a bit more sympathetic…

-Give them a tragic past.

-Put them out of their comfort zone in some way.

-Make them accident-prone.

-Have them lose a loved one.

-Flesh them out a bit more. It’s hard to feel sympathetic for a stereotype.

-Don’t idealize your character.

-Resist the urge to feel sorry for him or her. Yes, it’s OK to lavish nice things on your character every now and again… only if those things are going to be taken by force in the next few chapters.

-Think about your favorite characters in books or movies. Why do you sympathize with them?

-Make your characters humble, not arrogant.

-Give them tragic flaws that are difficult (or impossible) to overcome.

-Don’t let them wallow and mope!

How do you make your characters sympathetic?

8 thoughts on “Sympathetic Characters

  1. Having the same problem. You have some good suggestions here! My best idea so far is to fill out her past more and give her some interests in life past what she’s going through in my novel. It’s not going too well. Good luck!

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  2. I have problems with this all the time. Some of my female characters come out too much like Mary Sues. One path I have taken is to make the character not so nice in the beginning and have them see the error of their ways and try to redeem themselves as the story progresses.

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  3. Ooo, do you mind if I borrow one of those? I do have a character that I’m starting to dislike. If he doesn’t shape up, I’m voting him off the island with a crossbow.

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  4. I personally love the tragic backstory plot, especially when the backstory is tragic because the character themself did something terribly ill-advised that ruined their own life for them.

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