Monday, October 31, 2011

A Rainbow of Connections

So… I have decided to do my first series of blog posts. It will be a three part discussion on emotional connections with characters. Here is a brief outline:

  • Part 1: A Rainbow of Connections
  • Part 2: Reader/Character vs. Writer/Character
  • Part 3: Building the Emotional Bridge

WARNING: The following may contain spoilers. If you have not read a book I mention, you may want to skip over that section.

Before I was a writer, I was a reader. To me the two most important things about a book are the characters and the story. I am willing to look over a lot of short comings if I like one or both of these elements.

My favorite characters are the ones that I make some kind of connection with. But there is not just one kind of connection – there is a whole rainbow full of them.

Blue: The Sympathetic Connection

When I have a Sympathetic Connection with a character – it means that I identify with either their experiences or their emotions. For example: Harry in The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley is kidnapped and torn away from the world she knows and must learn to live in a new world. I moved a lot growing up and know what that feels like. I made a connection with Harry because I have experienced the same emotions she was feeling.

Indigo: The Empathetic Connection

Empathetic Connections are related to Sympathetic Connections. Except with an Empathetic connection I can understand the situation or feelings of the character but do not directly identify with them. Catherine in The Meeting Place by T. Davis Bunn and Janette Oke loses her daughter. I do not have children – but I can imagine what kind of pain she must be going through.
Another example, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – Katniss makes a decision at the end of the book. I don’t necessarily agree with the decision she makes. But I understand it because I understand Katniss and what she has been through.

Orange: The Friendship Connection

Sometimes when I am reading a book, I start to feel a sense of friendship towards the character. Two of my favorite characters in Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling are Ron and Hermione. I like Ron and Hermione because they are the kind of people I would hang out with in really life. In fact, I have actually had friends that are very much like Ron and Hermione (especially).

Tangerine: The Endearment Connection

Slightly different from the Friendship Connection is the Endearment Connection. For me this is when a character is endearing to me. Sometimes it is almost a motherly concern for the character. But usually it is somewhere between friendship and affection. Case in point Dobby from .

Purple: The Hero Connection

We look up to heroes. We honor and admire them. When I make a Hero Connection to a character it means I am routing for them to win. I want their quest to be a success, to see them win the battle. I want them to prevail at all costs. I often become very loyal to such characters – and even when presented with supposed evidence of their guilt or evil – I give them the benefit of the doubt.
For me, Aragorn from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien is just such a character for me. I see his potential to be a leader and a good king. So I want his efforts to be successful.

Black: The Villian Connection.

So far all of the connections I have talked about so far have been geared towards the protagonist. Now I would like to touch on two connections that we can make with the villains of the story. The first is – The Villian Connection. This kind of connection is made when I truly loath a villain. I find myself using another example from Harry Potter: Umbridge. *shudder*
I hated Umbridge so much I was tempted to not read the scenes of the book in which she was present. Or not read the book at all. That is how much I hated Umbridge.

Red: The Rogue Connection

When I like a character that I should not like, because he is evil or bad, that is a Rogue Connection. For example, when I read The Peasant Queen by Cheri Chesley I liked King Gregory. I felt sorry for him and really wanted to see him change his ways and become a better person. Of course he was the antagonist so we are not supposed to like him.

The moral of this story is that there are many different kinds of emotional connections and that each one has its purpose. In the next part of this series I will share my thoughts on the Reader/Character connection vs. the Writer/Character connection.


  1. Characters really do have a purpose and I totally agree with purple. Aragorn is one of my heroes, such a humble man to begin with and became a great king. :) And in my mind, he's an attractive, rugged man. :) Happy Halloween!

  2. I like this point of view it's a great way to look at characters, see how different they are, then use that in your own writing!

  3. Green: The resentment connection. When the reader views the protagonist as a bimbo, undeserving of current status and power, which likely came about by chance or birthright rather than merit, and hopes the novel will end in the protagonist's demise. Go villains!

  4. @Krista M - Happy Halloween :)
    @Jennie - Thanks!
    @AE Marling - that is a good one!

  5. I really like this as a way to look at characters. I've never thought of it, or seen it, laid out like this. Thanks! Great post.

  6. You always have the most interesting posts :)

  7. To have an connection with any character, it is the common flaws that they recognize in themselves or the someone they know. It is the flaws that make us human, not the perfections. ;D It is what makes us different from everyone else, our unique set of flaws.

  8. I think an important thing to touch on as far as writing is concerned (that you sort of covered with your multitude of Harry Potter examples) is that you don't need to use just one connection, when trying to make one as a writer. Quite to the contrary, you want to try to make as many as possible.

    I enjoyed the post, and quite agree with it. As a reader, a book becomes more real for me when I make a connection to a character.