Connecting reader to character

Today I want to blog on a topic very close to my heart.  It’s close to my heart because it’s perhaps one of the most common reasons writers hear from agents about why they are rejecting their work.  It’s the infamous “I just didn’t connect with your character/story in the way I wanted to”.

Yup.  I hear all my fellow writers groan.  I know, this one is perhaps the most frustrating rejection because it doesn’t exactly tell you what aspect you need to fix.  It’s an abstract rejection.  So how can hard working writers get around this, so that we can create the kind of characters that our readers DO connect with?

Well, I have been searching high and low to find out actual, concrete ways to help hit this rejection nail on the head.

And here are the best three solutions I can come up with.

1)  Emotional Filters.  Yes, my fellow CPs will know this one is a biggie for me.  What is an emotional filter?  And how can it connect my characters to the reader?  Simply put, an emotional filter is a technique used to show things in your MC’s world in a way that SHOWS the reader not only the description, but the way the MC feels at that particular moment.  For example, if your character is describing their home, you could tackle this in two ways:

a)  The glass specks in the black bricks shimmered in the morning sun, casting sparkling light over the path.  I eyed the windows.  The curtains were drawn.

However, through an emotional filter:

b)  The glass specks in the black bricks sparkled, their light sneaking over the path like a warning.  The curtains were drawn over the windows, thick material hiding the secrets inside. 

Example one doesn’t tell us anything about HOW the narrator feels.  We’re removed from the MC’s feelings.  However, example two shows that the MC is feeling on edge, by using words such as “sneaking”, “warning” and “secrets”.

Some great articles on emotional filters are:


2)  You can also connect your reader more to your MC by using subtext.  Don’t always spell things out to your reader (or for your MCs).  Use misunderstandings to your advantage.  Don’t say everything directly.  In real life, we don’t always say what we mean.  Let your characters do the same.

A good article to check out, especially about dialogue, is:

3)  Dig into your character’s mind.  Really get to know your character and show the reader what their biggest dreams are, their strongest fears, and more importantly WHY these things are so important to your character.  And that’s the rub.  Readers don’t really care what your characters dreams are unless they can understand WHY they are so important to them.  Ditto fears.  So make sure you really dig into the bare bones of what makes your character feel the way they do.


I hope that these suggestions offer some help or insight on how to get around the rejection of “I didn’t quite connect with this story/character in the way I wanted to”.  Remember, they aren’t hard and fast rules, but they are the most solid ways I can find of strengthening your ms against this frustrating rejection.

If anyone else has any further insights – feel free to weigh in!!!

10 thoughts on “Connecting reader to character

  1. Outstanding post, Fiona!

    I love vivid verbs to convey emotion through descriptions. So much more powerful than adverbs. The verb “sneaked” in your second example shifted the mood of the description. Even if nothing else had been changed, it conveyed an ominous sense of danger.

    I also agree that it is important to know more about your characters than your readers will ever know, or need to know. Even if you never specifically state for your reader a character's dreams or fears, your knowledge, as a writer, of those influences in your character's life, will dictate how the character acts and reacts to the world and characters you've created, giving the story deeper, relatable emotional layers.


  2. So glad you found this helpful. Strong verbs are so important, and word choice shows the reader so much about your character. Every choice and decision they've made in their life comes from experience, and that experience shapes and molds how they percieve and portray the world.


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