I Feel Sorry For You!

Why It's Important for Readers to Sympathize With Your Character


One of my former students developed a presentation about how people tend to excuse the flaws in their heroes, in life and in fiction. Why do you think we do this?

Could it be because we want our heroes to be better than we are?

Yet, in Greek and Roman mythology, the gods were definitely flawed, weren't they?

When I taught Writing, I emphasized the importance of creating a character readers can connect with, otherwise readers won't care what happens to him/her/it. I emphasized this because that's how it is in life. We tend to hang around with people who make us feel better about ourselves. This might be because they are extremely flawed and, just by being near them, we look pretty good! That's a sad truth.

Or we tend to hang around people who make us feel better about ourselves simply because they are encouraging and know how to build us up rather than tear us down. They have survived stressful circumstances or have overcome tremendous obstacles, therefore, just being near them inspires us to keep going.

These people might be flawed, but they know how to overcome their flaws instead of focusing on them.


Debbie Downer

I think it's safe to say we all know a Debbie Downer. This is the person in the group who is always negative and makes sure everyone knows it. They make the effort to explain how terrible every aspect of their lives are even when friends point out the positives. They insist on keeping the conversation negative. They aren't looking for solutions to their problems, just a chance to talk about their problems.

It's hard to be around someone like that and still feel good about the world, isn't it?

In writing, the challenge is to create a Protagonist the reader can cheer for. He might have flaws, but these flaws are endearing to the reader. Readers identify with the Protagonist's flaws and, therefore, root for them to succeed. As the writer, you put her in horribly stressful situations that might be beyond her control, but you have her overcome these situations and that's what causes readers to cheer her on.

In doing so, the reader is in fact rooting for themselves to succeed in life.


Using Power for Good

We writers have a lot of power, don't we? We can use our stories to encourage and uplift our readers. That, for me, is the best part about writing.

One student came to me and said, "Wow, Mrs. Douthitt. You really beat up Peter (the protagonist) in your The Dragon Forest trilogy!"

I smiled and replied, "Yes, but he keeps getting back up, doesn't he?"

As a child, my favorite books were about flawed characters dealing with enormous circumstances and fighting forever onward. I guess it's no wonder I write such stories.

I write to put forth stories about regular people overcoming tremendous odds so my readers can identify with them and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

For me, that's the reason I write flawed characters.


R. A. Douthitt is an award-winning author of middle grade books. She is currently working on her women's inspirational novel, Leaving Eden, to be release later this year. To learn more about her books, visit her website: www.thedragonforest.com
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Published on March 13, 2019 10:30 Tags: authors, books, characters, heroes, hope, life, obstacles, overcoming, power, reading, strengths, writers, writing
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