5 Ways to Infuse Your Story with Gripping Emotion (Part 2.2): Captivate with Change-Worthy Characters

CK Author's Pic 2012Captivating characters demonstrate specific qualities of uniqueness, heroism, compassion and resilience that naturally draw readers deeper into the emotional undercurrents of the story.

The three essential traits of captivating characters – interesting, sympathetic and change-worthy – move readers along the continuum of emotional depth and connection.

As summary of the first two traits we’ve covered in previous posts and as introduction to the final character trait (Change-Worthy), consider the following:

  • Interesting characters earn reader attention
  • Sympathetic characters earn reader attachment
  • Change-Worthy characters earn reader advocacy

Once readers feel attracted to characters because of their interesting traits and sympathize with characters because of their admirable traits and suffering (see previous posts for more details), the apex of emotional identification is reader advocacy.

Reader advocacy occurs when characters demonstrate through multiple story choices that they deserve to change, transform and achieve a type of emotional nirvana.

It’s important to note that this characteristic centers on worthiness to change, not necessarily actual change. James Bond is captivating and worthy of change, but rarely changes. Both protagonists and antagonists can be change-worthy.

A general guideline for generating change-worthy characters is as follow:

  • Interesting traits
  • Sympathetic traits
  • Admirable story choices
  • These choices in a variety of settings and scenes
  • Progression of story time

Unique characters who show a story-long pattern of courage and compassion in the face of complex and complete suffering evoke in readers a desire for that character to change. The characters may not change, but readers WANT them to change.

This, fellow wordsmiths, is change-worthiness at its most profound.


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

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