Character Sympathy

heart COVER 300Writing Craft series, volume 2

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Character Sympathy
Creating characters your readers have to root for

With a foreword by Alicia Rasley, fiction writing teacher, editor, and author of RITA-award–winning and best-selling novels!

If you’ve read my blog series on character sympathy, this offers an expanded version of the material covered there, with more topics, more examples and more help for you and your characters!

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About the book


Often we think of sympathetic characters as those we love or envy or pity, but character sympathy runs deeper than simply liking or feeling sorry for a character. Sympathy in this sense is truly feeling what the character feels, worrying over the same things he worries about, and wanting him to succeed against all odds. If we can get our readers to fully sympathize and identify with our character, our readers will enjoy that journey with our character and then clamor for more.


  • Learn what events, actions and characteristics create true sympathy for a character.
  • Engineer your character’s motivations and goals to maximize their sympathy.
  • Avoid clichéd methods for creating reader identification.
  • Foster sympathy for heroes, antiheroes, villains and everyone in between.
  • Observe and analyze master storytellers’ techniques to create character sympathy.

Character sympathy isn’t automatic or easy, but it’s necessary for readable fiction. Applying these principles can strengthen any story and any character.

Hook your readers with a character they can really root for.

Advance praise

“Jordan has a knack for developing great characters. In this book she shows how to strike the proper balance to make characters believable and multidimensional. Very helpful for all authors, from newbies to published.”

—Nina Holbrook

“Jordan McCollum’s Character Sympathy offers a clear explanation of why showing trumps telling and why your hero/ines need to work for the reader’s sympathy.”

—Morgyn Star

“From Character Sympathy I learned how to make my characters tick from the beginning.”

—Syakira Sungkar

Buy now | About the book | Table of Contents
Advance praise | Product details | Bonus Material | Series

Product details

DCB logo on transparentPublisher: Durham Crest Books
Length: 120 pages
Publication date: April 2, 2014
Genre: Writing craft nonfiction
Formats: Kindle (.mobi), ePub, PDF, Trade paperback
ISBN (trade paperback): 978-1-940096-08-7 (paperback), 978-1-940096-09-4 (e-book)

Table of Contents

  • Defining character sympathy
  • Why character sympathy is important
  • Ineffective methods of creating character sympathy
    • The character
  • The “perfect” character
  • The sad sack
  • Characteristics
    • Klutziness
    • Physical beauty
  • Mystery
  • Direct characterization
  • Actions: save the kid
  • Backstory
  • Effective methods of creating character sympathy
    • Provoking emotions
    • Strengths
      • Avoiding the perfection cliché
    • Struggles
      • Avoiding the sad sack cliché
      • Inner conflict
    • The noble goal: sacrifice
      • Establishing the noble goal
      • Personal stakes
      • Stakes
    • Actions: save the cat
      • The price of reader sympathy
    • Environment
      • Dramatic irony
    • Effective antagonists
    • Humor
    • Timing
  • Examples of character sympathy
    • Harry Potter the sad sack
    • Superheroes, super strength
      • Superman
      • Batman
    • Spy Another Day—sacrifice for sympathy
    • Romeo and Juliet and dramatic irony
    • Arabian Nights and putting it all together
    • Prickly characters
      • Ebenezer Scrooge
      • Sherlock Holmes
  • Sympathy for other characters
    • Love interest sympathy
    • Secondary character sympathy
    • Sympathy for the devil: villain and antagonist sympathy
  • Common challenges to character sympathy
    • Unlovable characters
    • Antiheroes
  • Keeping character sympathy
    • Using the character arc
      • Defeat versus failure
    • Actions to avoid
    • When the character must do something bad
      • Clear motivations
      • Motivations and backstory
      • Humanizing bad actions
  • Concluding on character sympathy

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Bonus materials

Blog articles on character sympathy


Also in the Writing Craft Series

craft title
characters title

Depth COVER 300 dpi
Character Arcs: Character Sympathy: Out now!
Character Depth:
Founding, forming and finishing your character’s internal journey Creating characters your readers have to root for Keeping readers riveted with real characters, emotion & deep POV

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