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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Retreat Day 2: Making Your Character Sympathetic


First a shot of my sunset cruise tonight off the coast of Waikiki beach. Now onto work.
Since I can't possibly cover everything Bill taught today and get my homework done, I'm going to focus on his lecture about making your character sympathetic. This is not to be confused with empathetic. Bill describes sympathetic character traits as something about the character being likable. He describes empathetic as the character having something about them the reader can relate to. Here are William Bernhardt's seven ways to make your character sympathetic (please note, Bill does not recommend having all seven in one character, he says two or three is plenty. His words are in quotes, my embellishments follow unquoted.):

#1. 'Have them be very good at what they do.' Who doesn't love an expert right?
#2. 'Give them a sense of humor.' This doesn't have to be typical, it can be quirky or dark.
#3. 'Have them treat others well.' What garners sympathy better than that, eh?
#4. 'Have them be kind to pets, children, or elderly.' It doesn't have to be all three, that too
could be a bit unbelievable or over the top.
#5. 'They have undeserved misfortune.' Undeserved being the key work here folks.
#6. 'Give them a physical, mental, or educational handicap.' Hitting low, but it works.
#7. 'Have another character like the main character and say so.' Bill stressed saying so.

If we don't like or sympathize with the main character in some way, shape, or form, chances are we won't make it very far into the book and may not even make it to the checkout stand.

Of course there was more packed into the second day but I must cover it another day as I have homework to finish! More tomorrow.

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