1. We have moved to a new forum system. All your posts and data should have transferred over. Welcome, to the new Serebii Forums. Details here
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Be sure to join the discussion on our discord at: Discord.gg/serebii
    Dismiss Notice
  3. If you're still waiting for the e-mail, be sure to check your junk/spam e-mail folders
    Dismiss Notice

feeling sorry for someone...

Discussion in 'The Authors' Café' started by はるひ, Sep 9, 2012.

  1. Here's something I'm attempting to do: make a reader feel sorry for multiple characters. I mean, I've never really seen people do that before, only for one character they have but can you make a reader feel sorry for both parties?

    I've written something like I think many months ago and my goal was to make you feel sorry for not only the wigglytuff but the main character (Giratina) even though the main character was raging. I wasn't a good attempt so now, I did something to where Ariana punches Proton and he bleeds. I'm trying to make you feel sorry for him AND her in this case because he teased her.

    I know that a character MIGHT have to do something endearing for a person to feel sorry for them but what are ways to kinda you know... get a reader to like feel for them and want to hug them?
  2. Waras

    Waras Writer

    I always find a touch of insanity to work. If the character is driven to his/her actions by emotional issues or an outside force, the audience realizes that it doesn't have control of the situation. The character being dominated by his/her emotions is a great way to elicit pity.

    A really simplistic example would be that Tom screams at Amy because she made a joke that gets under his skin. Amy didn't know it would hurt him, so the audience feels bad for her getting yelled at. Tom has a reason to be mad at her, because it is a weakness of his own, which also draws some pity depending on how deeply the joke hurt him.

    Or, a married couple could get into a fight because of pressures from jobs, and both say really hurtful things. Readers will feel bad that their marriage is falling apart, even though they both yelled at each other.

    There are lots of ways to evoke pity, you just have to find one that fits the situation.
  3. Yeah both times that what I did. The characters were driven by their emotions...
  4. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie 桜咲くこの坂を今も上っている

    From what you gave in the opening post, there is no way I, as a reader, would ever feel sorry for Ariana and Proton because she punched him and made him bleed. Now why did she punch him? Because he teased her? Sensitive much? If anything, that's more or less played for humor and not sympathy.

    To sympathize with characters, first and foremost is the character needs to be likeable. If we don't like the character and bad stuff happens to him or her, we won't feel sorry for them in the least, sometimes even if he or she does or does not change their ways. This is one of the many warning signs out there that you aren't writing a good character when no one feels sorry for them. It would make sense if the protagonist is a heartless jerk and karma bites them in the butt (in which case, why are we cheering for the jerkish protagonist in the first place if they refuse to do a heel turn?), but if they aren't, then you're writing the character incorrectly somehow, and the sympathy is lost on us.

    It's easier to do this with one character, but it is possible to make multiple characters the woobie, as many books and movies have shown us. Harry Potter comes to mind the most for me.

    When it comes to emotions driving it home for sympathy, it has to depend on the emotions and what caused them. If the character(s) just cry and angst over something that is beyond their control and not do a thing about it, we aren't going to feel sorry for them in the least because they're acting really childish about it. Now if we had gotten time to get to know the characters and their weaknesses and watch them live their life, when we start to watch them struggle to overcome their weaknesses as it slowly gets harder and harder for them, we can feel sympathy because their emotions become our own. It is then that we want to see them succeed, and we want them to be happy in the end.

    Again, Harry Potter comes to mind with this, though there are loads more stories out there that do this. I just can't think of any other series out there at the moment.

    So yeah, someone punching another character in the face for a tease is not sympathetic, especially since it's between Proton and Ariana, and we know that Proton likes to tease people and can be a bit of a jerk at times. Thus, it's more on a comedic scale than anything else. Now if you had shown us for a while that Proton is trying hard to become a nice guy, when he gets up to Ariana, he accidentally says something, and she punches him in the face, therefore showing us that it wasn't enough, and it affects him emotionally. That is where the sympathy comes in, because we have proof the character deserves our sympathy.

    Of course, we wouldn't feel sympathy for Ariana unless she had been doing the same thing in her life (and we got to see this), and she just snapped and she realized too late what she did went against all she worked for.

    So yeah, it relies on how you write the characters and the scenarios involved.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2012
  5. Griff4815

    Griff4815 No. 1 Grovyle Fan

    I'm not sure that I agree with this. I've seen several *sshole characters that I (and others) have felt sorry for. They might be jerks or even scum of the earth, but if something happens to them that's absolutely horrible and it devastates them, that could very well invoke sympathy. I guess it depends on how deep the dislike for the character goes and how sympathetic the reader/viewer is.

    I'm also not sure that I agree with the notion that a character is bad because they're unsympathetic. Sometimes there just need to be characters that exist to be hated. That doesn't necessarily mean they're bad, as they can still have depth to them. If you're talking about the protagonist, then I agree that they should have at least some redeeming characteristics or else the audience will be rooting for the villain to win (unless the villain is much worse and you're sort of stuck between the lesser of two evils, but I digress.)

    Anyways, it is possible to feel bad for both parties, but it takes tact to pull off correctly. Sometimes, one character will appear more "in the right" than the other, so if you're trying to go for equal sympathy, then you need to make sure you find a careful balance.
  6. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie 桜咲くこの坂を今も上っている

    I guess I had Invader Zim in mind, as he's a character I don't really like to root for, but he's funny in his own right. So yeah, makes sense.

    Oh yeah, of course there has to be, but even then, I have felt sympathy for villains before, mainly because the backstory is shown and it shows how they came to be the villain. For example, Higurashi has a rather sympathetic villain, though the villain goes on to do awful things. And I guess I can count Mewtwo for this because he's a tragic character, even though the dub made him more of a villain than he really is. Most of the time, the tragedy they go through is what shapes them into the big bads they are, and sometimes they're redeemable, sometimes they aren't, and I think some of the sympathy can get manipulated there. But I happen to like the villains more than the heroes depending on the characters, so I guess I'm a bit topsy-turvy about it at times.

    (So not a reference to anything.)
  7. ... and called her a liar and a dumb *****.... OH! and said that they don't respect her.

    That could offend someone right?

    I mean I could see someone being punched in the face with that and the reader feeling sorry...
  8. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie 桜咲くこの坂を今も上っている

    Yeah, there is no way I would feel sympathy there due to Proton being a complete jackass about it. Perhaps Ariana punching him in the face is a little overboard (unless that's the character she is), even if he deserved it, as a slap on the face would've sufficed. Either way, I wouldn't feel sorry for either of them unless there was more to it than meets the eyes and thus deserves sympathy.

    And no, I don't see how anyone would feel offended about it unless he called her derogatory names.
  9. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me Staff Member Moderator

    I have to agree with Griff4815. Half (or more) of my favorite fictional characters of all time are unlikeable as people, or if they're generally likeable the moments that I like are the choice moments where they're not being likeable. One of my favorite things about fiction is the ability to explore characters in extreme situations where they start to come apart at the seams, and those vulnerable moments can be simultaneously where they act unlikeably and where they're at their most strikingly human and sympathetic.

    Punching someone for teasing you, as an action out of context, is an overreaction. It's a bad thing to do. It's wrong. But people who do bad, wrong things are overwhelmingly not bad people. We often imagine that they are - it's a known principle in psychology called the fundamental attribution error - but that's not really the case. They're generally distraught, confused, or otherwise feel entirely justified for one reason or another. Everyone is the hero of their own story.

    So if Proton hits a real sore spot for Ariana - triggers memories of years of bullying, say, or rubs salt in the wounds when she's already in distress - then yeah, it is perfectly possible to feel bad for Ariana even if she punches him. The fact she punches him can actually make us feel worse for her, because the fact her emotional reaction is so powerful enhances our perception of just how much what he said hurt her. But in order for this to work at all - this is the key - Ariana needs to be very well written. We need to feel her emotions as if they were our own, not like she's a stranger.

    So, basically, if your characters are written well enough and your readers can really feel their emotions, you can make them feel bad for everyone in the situation, even if they've done something extreme and wrong.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012
  10. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine ██████████

    I feel like some of this is actually my fault because I told Gothitelle that Ariana would be more likely to punch someone in the face than she would to break down and cry. Which in a sense is true because Ariana just isn't one to cry or act meek, but I was joking about how far she'd go. If that's why Ariana is punching someone in the face in this story, I have to say sorry about that.

    That being said, honestly, I'm inclined to agree with Kutie. But this might just be my opinion of violence and bullying in general.

    Put it this way. The reason why the story with Giratina laying the smackdown on Wigglytuff failed was because Giratina wasn't that sympathetic, yes, but the reason why she wasn't that sympathetic was because of what she did. Same thing could be said here. It's a bit difficult to feel sorry for a character who reacts to bullying by making her bullies cry or otherwise hurting a bully to an extreme level. Sure, it's cathartic to watch, but in the end, if you react to violence with violence (or with wishing violence on someone -- which was a weak point of another one of Gothitelle's Palkia stories), you end up being no better than the bully. So it ends up failing because both sides become basically the same thing: overly violent abusers. Even worse, in some cases -- like now, when Ariana responds to Proton's insults by making him bleed -- the victim's retaliation is more extreme than the original abuse, so it becomes difficult to decide who to root for because the victim has suddenly become worse than the bully.

    So the first thing to do is definitely to scale back the level of violence to avoid the shock, meaning Kutie's suggestion is actually a pretty solid one. After that, what you have to do in order to make both sides sympathetic is basically play up the background. Sure, verbal insults are hard to deal with, but not everyone lashes out with extreme physical violence -- or even violence at all -- in response. Meanwhile, if you want us to feel sorry for the bully, you'd have to provide a reason why he's bullying her in the first place. But Kutie covered that part pretty well. I'm just saying that in order to get us to feel sorry for your characters, you'd have to give us a lot more than "she hit him because he was making fun of her."

    Tl;dr, I think a lot of the reason why your earlier story didn't work out so well was more because of how inappropriate the reaction to bullying was. It's very difficult to connect to a character if what they're doing is over-the-top because the more over-the-top you get, the more comical or repulsing the character's actions become, if that makes sense. Physical violence, in many cases, is over-the-top, especially if it makes someone bleed or seriously injures them. (It's only not over-the-top when it's in-character. For someone as angry as Proton, sure, physical violence would be inappropriate. Ariana is far more level-headed, however, so physical violence wouldn't. And yes, what Dragonfree said -- about how extreme cases of bullying might result in a face-punching -- is true, but I also get the feeling we're talking about something milder here, especially considering the fact that Proton was Ariana's subordinate in your universe.) So you'll want to keep that part in mind and consider scaling back the violence, even for someone like Ariana.

    Or I guess in even shorter terms, when writing about bullying, try not to make your (characters') first reaction be extreme violence. If you have a very, very good reason for your characters to react with extreme violence, then sure, you can have that happen, but again, keep in mind that the reason has to be particularly good. Years of bullying in conjunction with low self-esteem and self-worth, for example -- a combination that Ariana doesn't really have canonically.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012
  11. Oh that's what my OS was kinda based on so yeah. I thought you meant that she would hurt someone if they disrespected her. I'm sorry if I misconsutred that. I wanted to show that for once, Ariana wasn't liked or taken seriously with the two lower ranking guys and that two, it gets to her but I didn't want to make her run to Archer. So yeah I made her punch a 17 year old in the face for his cruel comments because I kinda thought that's how she would act. Plus I thought that the fact that she was a girl, it would kinda strike more pity for her. I mean if Proton hit her, you all would hate him in the story...

    I do tend to have the girls lash out like that as someone else told me before. I see it being a pattern. Like in the Space story, Palkia lashed out at Cresselia for bulling her.
  12. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine ██████████

    Totally cool. That was my fault for not wording it remotely clearly. In any case, I have to say that there are definitely ways for a character like Ariana to handle putting characters like Proton in their places. She's a smart, level-headed, confident young woman. I can't say specifically what she would do, but one shouldn't exclude non-violent means of discipline (hello, blackmail, outsmarting others, or generally forceful personalities, among other things) as beyond her abilities. Not to mention, let's face it. She's one of the highest-ranking executives in Team Rocket, and she's one for a reason. It's difficult to believe that she doesn't know how to pull strings or be manipulative to get what she wants, and while I can see how Proton might not be afraid of her, it's difficult to see how he might fail to respect her for what she was as a part of Team Rocket. 'Course, that's just my interpretation of her; others are perfectly free to counter that idea.

    Meanwhile, I have to say that not that many people would feel sorry for someone based on their gender. Despite a few very problematic studies, if violence happens, there's still a lot of shock value to it. To me, at least, if a girl hits a guy, it's no better than if a guy hits a girl, especially if the reaction doesn't fit the cause the way I've said earlier. If a girl hits a guy just because that guy made fun of her a few times, I'm just going to think that girl's got a severe lack of class. I'd think the exact same thing about the guy, too. It's not the gender that would make me hate the character for having the extreme reaction; it's the extreme reaction itself, y'know?
  13. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    You have to get over this idea. It's skewing your views, which and wrong views can and do come out in one's writing.
  14. I have my reasons for the lack of respect in my personal headcanon but I see what your saying. She wouldn't cry like she did in my extra but she wouldn't resort to violence in my oneshot. It's hard to say what she'd do... I mean... well it's Proton and Petrel (yes she drags Petrel into this)
  15. Ememew

    Ememew Emerald Mew

    It might help you garner sympathy for your characters if you demonstrate (I mean, really demonstrate by writing it) that you can have characters react to teasing in ways other than violence. I tend to think of violence as a last resort, after all other attempts have failed, and only useful if its scale is reasonable. Showing the other attempted ways to assert themselves against a bully other than face-punching might help, rather than just saying "sure, they tried other stuff off screen, but I wanted to get straight to the fists for the story."

    Likewise, it helps keep the characters likable if the reactions to the use of violence are realistic - i.e. it's shown that there are consequences for them acting this way. These can be internal or external in origin, by which I mean an internal consequence might be a person feeling guilty after they realize they went to far when they struck back or an external one might be a punishment from someone else for unruly behavior, such as getting in trouble with a teacher rather than just walking out of class after a fight with a bully unpunished or facing consequences from the boss when you constantly disobey your superior at work.

    If my last comment might have suggested, this goes for the side making fun of the person as much as it does for the person who uses physical violence, too. I don't really feel sorry for Proton when he can just act like a jerk to someone who has the ability to make his working life miserable and just keeps doing it because he can get away with it (no, a punch to the face isn't really a consequence so much as a gut reaction). It doesn't really make sense that he just keeps doing this when he'd probably get fired for opting not to do his job just because he doesn't like someone, whether Ariana specifically has firing power or not. He's also not given well defined reasons for not respecting her that I can tell beyond him just not liking her, and having little to no motive for being a jerk doesn't really place him high in likability.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012
  16. Kaiserin

    Kaiserin please wake up...

    I found the problem to be not only with Ariana's reaction, but that I felt Proton's bullying was very... shallow and caricatured. Bullying tends to be shallow by nature because it's caused by the bully's own flaws as opposed to the person on the receiving end prompting it (even if what they say is true), but how Proton acted struck me as a very... flat performance. True, it doesn't seem completely unlike him, since he prides himself on being the most intimidating executive of Team Rocket, but it's also worth keeping in mind that all members of Team Rocket are about equally good at backstabbing and preventing themselves from being backstabbed.

    I could understand Proton lashing out at her and engaging in a mild war of wits, because I don't doubt tension would be high in a group like this that has to be constantly looking over their own shoulders. But you really made a mockery of Ariana by making her break down and punch someone so quickly -- emphasis on the breaking down part, because she went from zero to physically violent in a few lines of dialogue, and that is ridiculous. There are plenty of ways to depict harshness getting to someone; some better options might have been her taking a breather and trying to sort things out, blowing off some steam by brutally thrashing training some grunts in a Pokemon battle or something, or even getting defensive or snippy over things she normally wouldn't in regard to her concerns. But also keep in mind that, as I mentioned, she's one of the top ranking members in an exceptionally cutthroat organization, and showing weakness in a way others could take advantage of WILL work against her.

    It's been said many times before, and the sentiment continues to never be taken seriously, but I think if you rectify the massive double standards in your view of women compared to men, which is almost always the root of many of your problems in how you write female characters, a lot of these issues will sort themselves out in short order. Things like that absolutely leak into your writing, and it's really, disgustingly obvious to anyone in the audience keen enough to notice.
  17. Mockery......??

    I wasn't trying to mock her. I actually liked her. Also, not everyone is going to like each other. this takes place two years after Team R breaks up a second time and now their back with a new thing. Plus I made it to that she wasn't really thinking clearly until she actually saw what she did. She freaked out! And wanted to apologize.

    Well if you say it that way, maybe I should stick with a male cast. I like the girls some more than the guys. I mean when I tried to write a female character trying to save someone, it gets written off as their weak. :-/ Grr, I'm trying to learn from my mistakes in the past!
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012
  18. AquaRegisteel

    AquaRegisteel Face Oblivion

    Well, Sympathy certainly is a challenge to write well, but I can find an example here and go in detail:

    [Start of example]

    “I’m going to be frank, with you, Drew,” his father began, “Despite the fact that you partake in the feminine sport of coordinating, you’re an exceptional trainer.”

    Drew’s eyebrows raised in shock. His father was actually approving of his prowess? But no, Drew thought, there had to be something up his sleeve.

    “I saw your battle yesterday and was dazzled to find out that you weren’t a complete lost cause. Not that I thought you were,” he continued, Drew staying quiet. “You see, I never lost track of you. You think you ran away, but I’m sure even you know that the contest business is a gloriously media-centered occupation. Everytime you ever competed in a contest, every ribbon you won, we knew about it and watched you do it.”

    Drew gulped. So, his father was not here only because Jack spilled his location – Greg knew all along where Drew would turn up, and what better place to disrupt the atmosphere than at the grandest of all Grand Festivals?

    “However, you still coordinate, and that’s a problem,” Greg continued. “You see, I wanted you and Skeet to compete for my business. I wanted to see which one would be the strongest, yet the most knowledgeable of the battling realm. Both you and Skeet possess great power in that, but unfortunately, you have no badges to prove it.”

    “So? I don’t care about your business or whatever you do. I’m not interested in battling the whole way down my career, nor do I care about collecting badges. Just accept it-” Drew answered, but Greg cut him off with a wave of his hand.

    “I don’t mean to lead you to believe I want you to take over my business…I can’t quite trust you with that, yet,” Greg said with a smirk, “What I want is for the two of you to help me in creating a monopoly in the battling realm and get trainers the coverage they need to be successful.”

    Skeet jumped in on this, “Yeah, it’s not fair frickin’ coordinators all become celebrities, but most trainers don’t get any recognition. The only ones that really get it are the Elite Four.”

    “Which is where you come in, Drew,” his father said, trying to play the compassion card. “You already have recognition in the coordinating world – your influence could greatly help us reach our goal, especially if you became a trainer on top of it, like a middle ground.”

    “What exactly are you planning?” Drew challenged. He didn’t like where this was going.

    “That will all be revealed to you in time,” Greg answered, aware that this might cause conflict, and that the proposition he was rambling to Drew was not what they needed him for. However, his true plans, the ones that needed Drew's status and brains, would have also caused conflict.

    “And if I refuse?”

    “Oh, you can refuse…but there will be consequences,” Greg threatened. “After all, I’m sure you wouldn’t want anything bad to befall your little girlfriend. Or, maybe, we could buy out the Orchida dome right now and turn it into a battling arena, causing the last Orchida Grand Festival to close in the middle. Oh, there will be consequences.”

    [End of example]

    Just found this example from Contest Tie (by Encyclopika, of course). Here, Drew is told that his dad wants him involved with his business (which regards average pokemon trainers). He is basically told later in the story, he faces a choice: Become a trainer, and have no problems (which he doesn't want, as he hates his father), or stay a co-ordinator, and lose everything he competes for and loves.

    Sympathy here is given because Drew is written as a likeable character. He's given a decision which will hurt his feelings, one way or another. You feel sorry, as he is against everything about his father (hint: past experience with his father and brother). I can't describe too much of it without spoiling it all (probably have already!) Also, May later is told this, which makes you feel symptahy for her too...

    Anyways, a shoddy example from me, but hey, I tried. I'd just look at decent examples where people feel sympathy for a character, and look at it in detail. What makes you sympathise? How do they write that into the story? How is the atmosphere described? and other such questions.

    (Credits to Encyclopika for the excerpt, so don't sue me please...)
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2012
  19. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine ██████████

    A lot of the time, the reason why people get uncomfortable with the way you portray women isn't so much what they're doing but the how and why. For example, in this case, it's fine to have Ariana get upset, sure, but she's not the type of person who would cry about it. At the same time, having her punch Proton out would be unreasonable because not that many stable people, even when put under a lot of pressure, resort to that much physical violence.

    For another example, let's check out your humanoid Pokémon. Now, I know you might not have written scenes like this, but for an example, let's say Milotic wanted to protect her boyfriend. That's all well and good by itself, but it becomes iffy when you start getting into the finer details. Having her run around in a bikini becomes iffy because that's female exploitation. Having her want to save her boyfriend because she's not "complete" without a boyfriend might be arguable, and having her obsess over her boyfriend to the point where she's practically nothing without a partner makes her weak because she's practically not her own character. (People in healthy relationships aren't always dominated every waking moment by their relationship, and they don't necessarily whine incessantly when they're away from their partner/they think they can't live up to expectations that their partner may have.)

    So, that ties in with making sympathetic characters because there's a lot that goes into character creation that would affect that. There's the act itself, of course. (As in, yeah, we'd need to feel sorry for a character because of something they do.) But how they do it and why they do it also have a huge effect on how we see the character. In order to create a sympathetic character, you have to think very carefully about who that character is, what they would actually do (according to their personalities), and why they're doing what they're doing. Ariana's a pretty level-headed and self-confident person. To have her act on her emotions so easily would be forgetting that point because no one who's level-headed and self-confident would lose control of themselves after a short period of time.

    Well, that and no one (barring a vocal minority) feels sorry for a person just because they're female (or male for that matter). That's a lot like saying someone is automatically stupid because they're Mexican or something. That's (I think, anyway) part of what Butler and Kaiserin were also trying to say: if you let yourself believe that women are weaker or that they would automatically have very sympathetic traits to them compared to men, what you write is going to come out, well, more than a little problematic, even if you meant to have it compliment women. Get what I'm saying?
  20. I get what your talking about. All I wanted to do was do something where Ariana gets upset and she cracks or kinda yells at them. But now I know... like for this shipping dare I was given, I wanted to write about Ariana being called a weakling by another girl, specifically the girl who's commander from Team Galactic. Buuut she reacts by challenging her anyway. Isn't that a better reaction? Wouldnt you feel sorry for her now?
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2012

Share This Page