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We all want to tell our story and as writers we want someone to get our story, to fall in love with our characters. Patrick Cole at Live Write Thrive, shares with us his tips on how to connect the reader and the characters.
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How Writers Can Develop Emotional Connections between Reader and Hero
Today’s guest post is by Patrick Cole:
When I first met Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities, I was in high school and certainly not yet “fully baked.” In fact, my major emotional connection to the novel was not with Sydney Carton but with Lucy and Charles. They were so in love, and I just wanted there to be a romantic happy ending for them. Dickens did not disappoint me.
Of course, since that time, I have reread this novel two more times—once in college for an English Lit. class and once more because there is much to learn from Dickens’s writing.
To me, now that I am closer to coming out of the oven, Carton as a redemptive figure is one of the best in literature. And while many fiction writers do not have “Christlike” characters in their novels, the methods used by Dickens to establish that emotional connection are timeless and universal. Here are things I have learned that you can learn too.
- What’s the Backstory?
Readers cannot develop connections with characters unless they have the backstory that got them to where they are at the opening of your piece.
Backstories can help to establish empathy, understanding, and credibility, as long as they are done well.
Before you ever develop your protagonist in his/her current situation, spend some time developing a history that logically leads to the emotional and behavioral state in which they find themselves today. Never do this through a narrative. Provide that history through thoughts, behaviors, words and interactions with other characters.
It’s easy to see Sydney Carton’s backstory by his behaviors in the beginning of the tale—he is a drunk who feels worthless and inept, despite his stellar legal history. He has “fallen” and, though would like to redeem himself, cannot muster the strength and courage to pull his life together. He has no purpose.
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