Saturday, August 20, 2011

The sympathetic character.

You never know when they will strike. Those "ah ha" moments. When something you have learned and been told a hundred times finally sinks in.

I have been coming across the phrase "sympathetic character" lately. One such place is the book "Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. The author discusses five basic plot elements and lists this as number one. It is followed by conflict, complications, climax and resolution. But without the sympathetic character nothing else that follows is going to matter as much. If we don't care about the character will we care about the story?

Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur L. Levine Books worked on the U.S. editions of Harry Potter. She posted on her blog a very informative speech titled "A Few Things Writers Can Learn from Harry Potter".  One of the top things on her list is how readers sympathize with Harry. (read the speech, it's a good one)

That brings us to the moment it finally set in. I have been telling myself all along to make my characters likable and that is what it takes to make readers care about my story. But it is not just about being likable, it is about being drawn to a character and sympathizing is the way to do that.

I saw the new movie trailer for Real Steel. The first trailer didn't do much for me, it was mostly fighting robots and cool special effects. Of course I was planning on seeing it anyway because Hugh Jackman is one of the hottest men on the planet is a very talented actor and usually makes a quality film. But the second trailer really sucked me in. It shows a down on his luck, out of work athlete who befriends a child and takes on the task of teaching an old worn out robot to box, and all these characters seem to be the under dog. This trailer took me from a "Ya, that looks like it will be a good movie", to a "I will definitely be seeing that movie". Now depending on your movie preference this may not appeal to you; but for me after seeing what kind of journey our hero's have to face sucked me in and opened my eyes to the sympathetic character.

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