Guest Post written by Elizabeth Guizzetti
First of all, I’d like to say thanks to Flora at the Bootheel Cotton Patch for allowing me the opportunity to do a guest blog.
Now, imagine it is a beautiful summer’s day; you and a friend are sitting on the patio of your favorite café. You would be enjoying a great lunch, however unfortunately your friend is on a long winded monologue whining about her boyfriend, her parents, her boss, and her dog. Tired already?
Now imagine how your reader feels if your protagonist(s) drone on about their problems.
While a difficulty enhances your plot and can make a reader sympathetic to your protagonist, readers don’t want to hear your protagonist complain too much.
So how do you make sure that your character doesn’t just come across as whiney?
1) The problem must have something to do with the plot.
2) Make sure that the grumbling, moaning, or complaining session is a call to action.
The reader will stay more sympathetic to the complaining character if they are looking for a solution to their problems.
3) Mistakes are okay as long as the character does something. However they must learn from their mistakes.
4) Focus on showing, not telling when dealing with emotions.
Don’t say: The girl was scared. Describe how she is reacting to her fear. Fidgeting, trembling, etc. Show actual physical response to pain and stress.
Here is an example from my novel Other Systems
(Just a bit of backstory: Abby, the protagonist, has escaped her captures. She took a chance and found a job with the crew of the planetary survey vessel Revelation. After being examined for injuries, the ship’s doctor has left her in a billet and told her to get some sleep.)
“She didn’t have her old clothes, or even a photo to remind her of her old life. Wrongness lingered and fear rotted inside her stomach. Suddenly she realized she did not know if she could trust these people. What’ll happen if I fall asleep?
Sweat began to trickle down her back as she paced the two meters of floor space, trying to figure out what to do next.
Her stomach revolted in terror that the monsters of her nightmares might have been real. Though vomit began pulsing back up her throat, she refused to be sick.”
There you have it, Abby is completely looking inward, yet it is hard not to feel sympathy for her during these moments.
One of the best ways to learn to write is through reading great writing. Here are a few examples of excellent sympathetic characters.
Denise DeSio’s Rose’s Will
Mary Karr’s Lit
CS Forrester’s Horatio Hornblower Series
How do you create sympathy for your characters?
Elizabeth loves to create. In her mind, she has the best job (or jobs) in the world. Over the past decade, she has created over 100 paintings, three graphic novels and a comic book series. Elizabeth currently lives in Seattle with her husband and two dogs. Besides writing and creating artwork, Elizabeth's interests include:
snowshoeing in the winter, hiking in the summer, dancing badly any time, reading science fiction, horror and fantasy novels preferably while sitting in the sun with her dogs, traveling, and cake.
Other Systems is her first published novel and her regular blog is ZB’s blog of Awesomeness.