Dominant Reader Emotion

By Hank Quense Writing Tips 2 Comments on Dominant Reader Emotion

Have you ever heard of a Dominant Reader Emotion?

Probably not, but it’s one of the first attributes I assign to my characters. All of them, major and minor, get one of these puppies.

So what it is?  It’s the emotion that you want the reader to experience whenever the character is in a scene. I give them this attribute early in the design process because it affects how I develop the character. If I want the reader to admire the character, then I can’t have this character kicking puppies or running away from a fight. The DRE dictates that I develop the character’s attributes so the reader won’t be turned off by the character.

It’s possible, but difficult to have a character’s DRE change during the course of the story. But you can’t do this in a Fiction Writing Guidesshort story; there isn’t enough time for the change to take place.  You need a novel-sized story for this to happen.  The change has to take place gradually and his to be described by the author through inner dialog.

In the novel I’m currently writing, my main character is an obnoxious your princess named Moxie and her DRE is Irritation.  Over the course of the story, her sheltered life and uselessness is exposed and she is smart enough to recognize those problems.  She takes steps to change and by the end of the novel her DRE  has evolved to sympathy.

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Here are a list of Dominant Readers Reactions and descriptions that I’ve complied.  Feel free to help your self to the list.

Positive DRE’s:

* Empathy: the reader relates to the character and thinks the character is just like the reader.  I.E. the character and the reader share common traits.

* Affection: the reader has developed a fondness or liking for the character

* Sympathy: the reader understands the character.  Note that is very different from empathy despite the similarity in words.

* Delight: the reader takes pleasure in the character and his/her actions

* Intrigue: character has an unknown trait or background that puzzles the reader


Negative DRE’s:

* Animosity: the character arouses anger in the reader

* Irritation: the reader is annoyed by the character

* Pity: the reader feels sorry for the character

* Hostility: the reader is unfriendly towards the character

* Anger: the reader feels displeasure with the character

* Disgust:the reader is revolted by the character

* Sadness:  the reader feels sorry or unhappy for the character

* Apathy: the reader shows a lack of interest or concern in the character

* Contempt: the reader feels the character is worthless, or deserving scorn.

* Dislike: reader doesn’t like the character


There is a lot more fiction writing help in my Fiction Writing Guides


Have any questions about this topic?  Leave a comment and I’ll try to answer it.

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  • Chris Andrews
    Posted on January 18, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Nice post. This is something I seem to have done unconsciously, but after reading this I will consciously assign each character a dominant attribute. Thx!

  • Hank Quense
    Posted on January 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    I used to do it randomly and too many times, not at all. Now it’s at the top of my character design sheet. Right after the character’s name.

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