The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.
One of the main faults I had when I first started writing thrillers was that I did not understand the power of empathy. Oh, I knew what empathy was – after all I had spent many years of my previous life as a nurse! But in writing terms I never quite understood it’s power to connect with readers.
With my first efforts, I focused on multi-layered plot making it as full of chills and frights as I could. I made my main character a bit of a bitch and apart from overcoming the threat to her and her family I never made her particularly likeable. After this criticism of my story came from more than a few quarters, I looked afresh at other stories, comparing them to my own and realised they were right. Mostly main characters should be likeable even if they do some not so good things.
None of us know how we’d react if we were put in a life or death situation or were faced by a dreadful choice but we can’t help but wonder how we’d cope and that emotion – empathy - is the engine of all good fiction, not just thrillers. Of course it does mean that the heroine/hero characters must be likeable so we can root for them to succeed. Even superheroes and star trek characters have to have some human frailties for us to feel for them.
Do you give your characters human faults that readers can relate to.