5 Ways to Infuse Your Story with Gripping Emotion (Part 2.1): Captivate with Change-Worthy Characters

Characters serve as the emotional lens through which readers experience the story. Therefore, designing characters that captivate, mesmerize and enthrall readers becomes a major part of infusing stories with gripping emotion.

In a previous post, we introduced the following three essential traits of a captivating character:

  • Interesting
  • Sympathetic
  • Change-Worthy

Since we already discussed several methods of generating interesting characters in the last post, today let’s camp out on the second trait, creating sympathetic characters. In short, readers desire and delight in characters with which they sympathize.


Bestselling authors trigger reader sympathy in a multiple of sneaky ways. Here a few of their tricks pulled right out of the bestseller grab bag:

  •  Medal of Honor Approach: bestselling authors love to show characters acting and responding to crises with courage, honor and sacrifice. This is why many stories begin with protagonists saving lives, or otherwise displaying heroism in the face of danger.
  • BoyScout/Girls Method: Showing a character offering kindness and compassion to others is a sure-fire way to generate reader sympathy.
  • Masochism Method: Readers have instant sympathy for characters that suffer. Accomplish this method by having characters undergo torture, setbacks, personal betrayals, and other savagery in the story.

Applying these and other techniques allows you to embellish your characters with coveted reader sympathy. Sympathy moves readers from intellectual captivation to emotional attachment.

What are your favorite characters in fiction, and how are they sympathetic? 


Christopher Kokoski is a speaker, trainer and author of Wicker Hollow and the Past Lives novel series.

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Posted in Writing

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