In several reviews of my book, readers mentioned that they were invested in the novels characters’ and that they really cared about what happened to them. This feeling of concern is what motivates readers to stay with a book and to turn the page. Concern for characters comes from being able to identify with them, and even more importantly, being able to sympathize with them.
If I were to set Silvia up in a perfect family situation with an approachable, caring father and a warm mother to whom she felt close, readers may not care so much about whether or not she successfully unites her family or finds direction in her career life. Her other family members have sympathetic qualities as well. Cosmo is the black sheep of the family and was called a “failure” by his father for most of his life. Despite her beauty and wealth, Angie seems incapable of being happy, and even had a suicide attempt in her past. In addition to having a physical disability, Frank also had an abusive, vindictive mother who loved him the least of all her children.
But there are other ways to make characters sympathetic besides giving them problems. Characters become sympathetic when they are given admirable personal qualities, as revealed through their actions and dialogue. Frank’s alcoholism heightened when he became disillusioned with the our justice system as a lawyer. This disillusionment may have not been so difficult for him had he not cared so much about justice. His son, Vince, is also impassioned about justice and wants to make the world a better place. Donna stayed in her miserable marriage for as long as she did because of her love for her children. Silvia is passionately devoted to bringing peace to her family and in reminding them all that they really do love each other.