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Creating Empathy For Your Characters (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

Angel Dust by Sarah Mussi - cover image

Just in case you are only now joining this series of posts, I’m going to reiterate a brief resume of my opening comments in post one, where I wrote that getting teenagers to read is a tough job. I pointed out that we know they have plenty of other things do with their lives, so as writers of novels for teens we need to roll up our sleeves and apply every tactic known to the craft of storytelling to get them not only to pick up our books but to carry on reading them when they’ve got past the initial storytelling hook.

In this post I’m going to share with you more on narrative drive and how to keep teenage readers glued to those pages.

The Secrets of Narrative Drive

Secret Number 4

drum roll…  tada!

  • whatever is ‘going to happen’ must matter to the reader 

To put this in context, remember in post three I wrote that the reader needs to be made the promise that ‘something is going to happen’ and that it will be worth reading on for. In order to encourage your reader to carry on reading you need to let them know the outcome is important.

Here’s the trick - you can only make the final outcome matter if the reader empathises with the protagonist.

So how can you seduce a reader into empathising with your main character?

I have a plan…

How you can you use this secret? 

  • Create a character who is likable (it sounds simple but you’d be surprised how often this is neglected).
  • Create a character who is a bit like your reader.
  • Give your character a huge hunger for a positive final outcome.

You can probably work out why the protagonist needs to be like your reader but why the ‘huge hunger’? As soon as we know someone wants something very badly we tend to want them to get it - in short we (mankind) love to see people’s desires fulfilled.



Sarah Mussi’s author website:

Sarah Mussi’s bio page


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The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     VibesProject 17Raven SpeakAcross the Universe

Writing Teen Novels

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