No, I'm not asking for sympathy based on the fact that I'm sleep deprived (EXHAUSTED) after a week at the conference. I had a great time. Way too good a time, in fact. Such is life. I survived.
This morning, as I prowled through the blogsphere, and a part of my mind was obviously elsewhere (hate it when that happens), I started to think about sympathy toward characters, especially the main characters, even if that character is an evil despot out to rule the Universe.
My main character in my currently out to query project is sympathetic . . . I think. Truly he is, I have no doubts . . . I think. So, my fatigued mind begins to track over the events of my character's current situation and - dang, I don't think I'd really feel that much sympathy for him since he seems kind of flighty. Okay, it wasn't that bad. I just realized I need to tweak one or two really minor - Code Blue, crash cart, STAT - things. Seriously, they are really minor tweaks. The tweaks are not major plot twists or reveals, and only require minimal work on my part.
How sympathetic are your main characters? Is there something about them that might turn a reader off? Does Priscilla (just a name picked at random, not an actual character of mine) do one thing that totally skews the reader's perspective of her? Does that one thing cast her in an un-sympathetic light that makes her ultimate decision not so much a grand fireworks display, but more a flickering candle amid thousands of candles? Yes, that is similar to the dilemma I face.
My character is sympathetic. He realizes he has a decision to make. The decision is not an easy one. I chart his struggle, his frustration, his desire to do the right right thing and, hopefully, not hurt people in the process. It all seems pretty straightforward. Yes, until the character does this and that and then suddenly, there is a pattern which totally skews the readers perspective of the character. I mean, why care about somebody who is allegedly going through a life altering event if they did this and that? Personally, I wouldn't care, and I would feel robbed!
So, I must eliminate this and that so that the struggle makes more sense. For this character, in this instance, a pattern cannot exist.
Are your characters sympathetic enough? Are they too sympathetic? Is there something about your characters (preferably main, the drivers of the story) that might make a devoted reader suddenly go . . . HUNH!!!! Is there something that might make a reader think why keep reading?
Sometimes, it is the small things that make all the difference to the reader.
Oh, and since I brought up the whole evil despot thing . . . too often when I wrote villains, I wanted them to be sympathetic. I wanted to understand what made them the way they were and to - ultimately - redeem them at the end. Sometimes, redemption is not an option. Sometimes, people do bad things for no other reason than they want to do bad things. Don't try to redeem every bad (i.e., evil, villain like, etc.) character. I'm just saying . . .