THE WAY I SEE IT
One day, two of my coworkers were pushing carts down a walkway, heading toward each other.
One shouted, “Whoa!”
The other kept going, until the carts collided, spilling their contents on the floor. “Why didn’t you say ‘stop?'” he asked. “What’s ‘whoa’ mean?”
Obviously, one coworker has had experience with horses, and the other has not. I can relate. Because of my equine background, I say, “whoa” instead of “stop” all the time. I also respond faster to “whoa.” It’s part of who I am. It’s part of how I connect to the world around me.
The same goes for your characters. Their background and experiences should color how they see the people, places, and objects in your story. In my upcoming novel, I show that my protagonist is a horsewoman by how she constantly does comparisons to the equine world. She evaluates people by their horses first.
Drawing from your character’s own experiences will give them depth and personality. In short, making them alive to your readers.
I was flipping TV channels one day when I came across the beginning of a movie. A small boy was ordered to fix breakfast by his aunt and uncle while his selfish cousin bullied him. I immediately cared for this orphaned kid with the big round glasses. I wanted to know what happened to him. He ended up at a strange school, with a mystery to solve and a villain determined to kill him. By the end of the movie, I was applauding him.
Apparently, other people liked him, too. I watched more movies about him, and when I ran out of movies, I read the last two books of the series. I wanted to see how he prevailed against this villain. I eventually bought all the books and all the movies. I even went to a midnight premiere showing of the last film. All because I cared about this character.
Such is the power of a sympathetic hero. So, have you guessed who he is? He’s the famous Harry Potter. And the movie that started it all? Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Your protagonist must have something your readers can relate to, sympathize with, care about. Without it, why would they finish your story? They need someone to cheer for to the end. Who knows what can happen after that?