Thursday, May 24, 2007

Our Characters and Eliciting Reader Emotions

Good morning! Happy Thursday. :-)

Lindi and I were having an email conversation about characters needing to take action, not sit around letting everything happen to them. The subject reminded me of making our characters likable and believable. And that reminded me of a great set of DVDs that I own and have studied (and love!): The Hero's Two Journeys by Michael Hague and Chris Vogler. (No, I don't earn anything by recommending these! :))

In the DVD series (and it also comes on CD's), they talk about 5 ways to make our readers empathize with the heroine. And they say that you need to use at least 2 or more of them right from the start of the story. Just very briefly, here they are:

1. make the character sympathetic

2. put her in jeopardy (not necessarily physical)

3. make her likable

4. make her funny

5. make her powerful (or very skillful at something)

In my current WIP, the heroine's job is in jeopardy (because of the hero). And she's likable (I hope!). She wasn't likable before, so I've had to really work on her.

The hero is a brainy science teacher (something of a geek). So he's powerful in that he's a brilliant scientist. He's also kind of a friendly giant type--very tall, lanky, a little clumsy, and very likable. Plus, he's sympathetic because he's come home from a failed stint as a missionary.

So I hope I'm making use of all these ways to make readers empathize with my characters.

What about you? Can you say that your heroine or hero has at least two of the factors above?



  1. Hmmm. I've done that with my other manuscripts, but I'm not sure if I've managed that kind of characterization that makes your characters stand our in my new contemporary. I'll have to ponder that one and do something about it. Thanks for the post Missy.


  2. Great post Missy. Thanks for the email link to the 2 Journeys. I think I'll journey on over there......

  3. I like this post because it makes me think about my writing and my current WIP. Missy gives us no choice in doing anything else!

    I put both my characters in jeopardy and I think I've made them likeable, through showing their interaction with others. I hope! Okay, I THINK I've achieved 3 out of 5.

    My problem is Conflict between the characters. Giving them chemistry that will make them like each other enough to give more of their hearts. This is why I've been stuck at Chapter 3 - 4 - 5 area. I've got enough internal issues going on with them, but not anything external. I think me and my characters need some therapy! LOL!

  4. Lindi, if you just want to borrow my DVDs you can. Or we can watch them together sometime. I'd love to watch them again.

    Jenn, I'm glad you're working on your contemporary! How's it going?

    Christy, I always have the HARDEST time at chapter 5! It's like I have this huge mental block! Start thinking about what are some of the worst things that could happen to your characters. Save the very worst one for your black moment, but maybe you'll come up with some terrible things to torture the poor characters with. :)