How to Write Empathetic Characters Without Boring Your Audience

If you want to be a published author, you’ll need to find a way to make your characters realistic and convincing. This includes adding flaws, believable conflicts and plausible reactions. It also includes having empathy for your characters regardless of how different they may be from you.

Know What it Means to Really Be Empathetic

Empathy is defined as being able to read others accurately. People who possess this quality are capable of more than merely sympathizing. They tend to understand the motivations of others. These characters are usually highly intuitive.

The first thing you want to do with your characters is humanize them. This means giving them emotions such as courage, frustration, desperation, excitement, etc. You also need to remember that human emotion is not always blatant. If your character is terrified because her best friend is being rushed to the hospital, she won’t necessarily become hysterical while explaining her own motivations. People in shock tend to become unresponsive and somewhat frozen at first. They may then try to distract themselves with some insignificant and repetitive act. Often, tears only come slowly.

Add One Flaw That Gets in the Way (or More!)

Give your character a personal flaw. Maybe it’s something major such as an addiction or a narcissistic personality. On the other hand, it could be something minor such as being constantly disheveled.

It’s also possible to make flaws attractive. For example, have you ever known someone voluptuous who exuded confidence about his or her appearance in spite of being routinely put down for being overweight? You could instill that trait into one of your characters.

Make sure not to use the flaw as an afterthought, though — that’s a quick way to get weak or boring characterization. Instead, try starting with a flaw and building your character around it.

Make Your Characters Three-Dimensional

Minor characters may come and go rather suddenly without giving the audience a chance to know much of anything about them. You do not want to do this with your main characters. Flesh them out.

Place your protagonist in a conflict that demands growth. You don’t want to make the challenge too easy. After all, without change, there is no plot. You should put a major conflict at the forefront of your story. It will set the tone from the outset.

You won’t engage your audience unless you add depth and humanity to your characters. This means considering things like whether a character has a vocation, is religious or displays personal idiosyncrasies. In fiction writing, characters often seem to develop voices of their own. The strong ones tell you what they’d do in a given set of circumstances.

Need an outside perspective on your writing? See what I can do for you here!

The Indie Author #2 Gray Tactics

[podcast src=”https://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/5961570/height/90/theme/custom/autoplay/no/autonext/no/thumbnail/yes/preload/no/no_addthis/no/direction/forward/render-playlist/no/custom-color/cd1515/” height=”90″ width=”100%” placement=”top” theme=”custom”]This episode was inspired by something that happened to me while I was surfing on twitter looking at new work put forward by other indie authors. I think the author meant well but it rubbed me the wrong way on how it was done. I guess we will be talking about tactics.

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