dwj-digest (Diana Wynne Jones) V1 #757

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Wed Dec 3 20:12:55 EST 2003


On Thu, 4 Dec 2003 13:30:53 +1300, Sarah wrote:

>> Also, I think for some readers this *is* the most desired end--like 
>> it's the
>> whole point of reading books, and if they don't identify with a 
>> character
>> they don't like the book.  Or something like that.
>>
>> Melissa Proffitt
>
>I generally need *someone* with whom to identify or sympathise, or the 
>book is a spiky, unpleasant experience. A lack of sympathetic 
>characters is why I hated 'A Wizard of Earthsea' and could barely make 
>a start on Stephen King's 'Dark Tower' books, although the number of 
>hints he drops about their plots in his other novels is driving me 
>buggy.

I would say that sympathy is not the same as empathy.  Sympathy means being
able to care about the characters; empathy is feeling as though you're in
their shoes.  While I agree that most readers need to care about the
characters to some degree, I think there is a smaller set of readers who are
not happy unless they are feeling the more intense empathic response.  It
goes beyond just wanting to care about the characters.

Also, that feeling of sympathy or empathy is going to depend more on the
reader than it does on the author; I feel great sympathy for the characters
in _Earthsea_, and you don't, despite our having read the same books.  And I
guess it's obvious that identifying with a character (in the sense I've been
using of feeling a similarity between yourself and the character) is going
to be very personal as well.

Melissa Proffitt

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