On the marketing side of writing, we often talk about book sales and Amazon reviews. But long before a book hits the market, you have to win with readers in order to receive these prizes.
It starts with something simple–create empathy. According to Google, empathy is:
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
We are responsible for the empathy built inside our readers. They pick up our title and feel no emotion one way or the other toward the characters on our pages. We somehow have to move them from apathetic to empathetic. So how do we engage a reader and make our story matter?
Well, it’s quite simple really. We heighten the stakes, and we make likable characters.
Give your characters an unsolvable problem. The conflict of your story has to matter. It needs to offer something unfathomable, painful, crucial to the plot. If the conflict isn’t solved, your story no longer should have a happily-ever-after. Everything should pend on this solution-less problem, and it must have a weight that matters.
Create a character you love. One way we give the conflict weight is by designing likable characters. We give them traits that we find attractive: gentleness, humility, compassion, bravery… This doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Sometimes we write flaws into their being, but make those flaws draw the reader to sympathy.
Do your readers empathize with the plight of your characters? If not, what keeps them from fully engaging in your story? It may be the plot simply needs deepened, or it could be your characters need more likable traits. How do you win with your readers?