1. Valiant
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    Valiant New Member

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    Creating Empathy

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Valiant, Jul 11, 2008.

    Hi, in my novel a character dies quite near the beginning and i was wondering how I could make the reader feel empathetic towards that character as it has a very large significance in the novel and character motivation,

    thanks in advanced, hope someone can help
     
  2. MumblingSage
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    MumblingSage Contributing Member

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    Show why people would like that character. He has a sense of humor, he's kind, he's smart and willing to use his smarts to accomplish things, he has big plans or a fiance.

    Sense of humor--because people like funny guys. Just be sure he's really funny.

    Kind--because we like nice people. Just don't make it syrupy or unrealistic (you'll know excessive nice when you see it)

    Smarts--think Ferris Bueller (whose name I have hopelessly butchered)

    Something to look forward to--always makes a death tragic. Readers can also empathize, because we've had stuff to look forward to, and it would REALLY SUCK if we died before we accomplished it.

    Some thoughts to bounce around. I hope they help.
     
  3. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    You tell us! Why is this character likable?
     
  4. Samswriting
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    Samswriting Senior Member

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    John doe, was walking with his girlfriend of almost five years. He wanted her to marry him and told her. But she wasn't ready, there had been too many divorces in her life. He respected her and left it to her to decide when. John Doe was a wonderful man, always watching out for those he cared for, and those he didn't. Along the road he saw a child drop his ice cream, the child began to sob, the child's mother told him she couldn't afford another. John Doe stopped at the ice cream stand, bought a double scoop and handed it to the child. The mother looked at him with tears in her eyes.

    John Doe's girlfriend kissed his cheek, her eyes sparkling with love, she wondered how she had ever found him, why she deserved this wonder in her life. She had asked him to take her out tonight, they planned it almost 2 months ago. Her forty third birthday. They were going to a restaurant they could hardly afford. He told her not to worry about the cost, anything was worth it to watch her eyes light up. She didn't know, but he bought tickets for the opera. They would have to depart from dinner by 7:15, it was a surprise he was sure she would never forget. She loved the Opera talked about it all the time, how her grandfather used to take her as a kid. They had never gone, today they would.

    And so John Doe and his girlfriend came to the crosswalk before the restaurant. They were idly chatting and talking, he kissed her cheek and stepped off the car, she was lagging behind holding his arm smiling and enjoying the warm evening air. When the world came to a halt.

    The glint of of chrome the violent screech of tires, his arm being wrenched from hers by the force of an eighteen wheeler colliding with his body. She approached his lifeless form screaming, crying out "John, John, Oh no John". Next too his mangled body, lay two tickets to the opera, 'Le piraete entourage'. John's girlfriend fell to the ground, great sobs of loss wracking her body.

    Just make him seem like a nice fellow then whack him... either by an act of god, or if you want to be more cliche' (getting creamed by a car is cliche' fyi) you could have him saving someone letting his own life go to save someone in a dire straight. If you "like" him we probably will too, so long as you tell us something about him.

    FYI I loathe story's that get too heavy in killing people I care for.

    * really hope Valiant comes back or i'll feel like a real idiot for spending this time responding * ROFL
     
  5. Daisy
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    Daisy New Member

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    Valiant,
    It all depends on the rest of your novel and how this character is so significant.

    Depending on what you plan to do, would it fit to kill off the character in a prologue, maybe even writing it from his "dying" POV, all the things he knows he'll never be able to accomplish, his hopes and dreams squashed by a ... mack truck, serial killer, horrible disease, doing something risky, or... is is he dying of unrequited love?

    Or,
    After he is dead, you could have one of the central characters remember him in an empathetic way, which would show him in the eyes of someone else other than himself. It's less sob story.

    But none of this may be where you are going. He could be the serial killer for all we know and just happened to fall on his own knife.

    Good luck with it.
     
  6. Samswriting
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    Samswriting Senior Member

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    ROFL I like the idea of a serial killer falling on his own knife heehee hrm there's a story there somewhere LOL
     
  7. Valiant
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    Valiant New Member

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    Well the significance is, is that the protagonist is searching for the truth of his mums death, that's what the novel is about. I was thinking of maybe the first few chapters on his and the mums relationship and how she is really kind Etc. whereas the other people in the same class are not, then the death, then the character searching for the truth of the mysterious circumstance in the oppressive society in which he exists

    And thanks for the other replies, I will have ago at them.
     
  8. Flightlessfoofaraw
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    Flightlessfoofaraw Member

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    I have a problem with empathy too. In my case, I'm describing a character in such a way that i fear will cause readers to feel apathetic towards him. It's an interesting conflict, and one i haven't yet resolved. On the one hand, I know who my character is. On the other, i don't want to actively turn readers off.
     
  9. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're MC was heavily involved with the character (not necessarily in a romantic light) Then you could make him/her have flashbacks of times spent with the character. Try showing your MC's feelings toward this character.
     

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