Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.
How do you make your characters more or less sympathetic? Why would you want to change how sympathetic a character is to the reader?
I have been working on how to make Nissa, a selfish thief and survivor, a likeable character to readers. She is good with horses and stealing money, not so great at making friends. Why would the other characters want to be friends with her? Because she’s the main character isn’t a really compelling reason. I think I want to make her stand up for the underdog and never back down from a challenge. That should give her some opportunities early on to earn the respect from other characters and thereby gain the affection of the reader (I hope).
This week I listened to the Writing Excuses podcast Adjusting Character Sympathy. Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells spend fifteen minutes expanding on a previous podcast that touched on this idea.
They discuss character sympathy, which is the sympathy that the reader will have for the character, as well as methods writers us to adjust that sympathy. Brandon Sanderson calls this “moving the slider.” They also discuss reason to make the adjustment, whether they are dealing with main characters, secondary characters, or antagonists. Also, new vocabulary word “stompled upon.”
Some of the tricks they suggest for “moving the slider” include: