Characters have to have sympathy! Don't they? Look at this guy. Doesn't he look forlorn? Wouldn't you like to give him a big fat hug? Sure you would!
Because he's got our sympathy. And heck, he's rather sexy too, don't you think?
But how do we get sympathy? Not just from a look, but from backstory. And how do we add backstory without it being backstory?
That's the trick! Crisis time! I've been working full steam ahead on Legend of the White Wolf rewrites (and that's why I'm behind on everything else--deadline Mon), dealing with my mother's death, taxes, just got an order for 3 bears, huh? No other time this year, but they have to come now? :) Yep, keep upping the conflict, ladies and gents. My daughter says it wouldn't happen like this if I couldn't handle it. Isn't it nice to have such a wise daughter?
In Destiny of the Wolf, my hero is maudlin over the death of his mate. But then he learns...she wasn't supposed to be his mate. Someone else was supposed to be. How? Why? These are the questions that need to be answered. But we hope that readers will sympathize with him. He's been lied to, cheated on, and heck, he's the alpha male pack leader. What gives? But this is what makes him sympathetic. The heroine's lost. Her parents are gone, her brother and uncle are gone, and her sister has died due to foul play. And she wants to find out who did it and make him pay, especially since she feels it's her fault her sister ended up in the mess she did. So giving the characters deeper motivation for what they do, which helps us to sympathize with them.
In Heart of the Wolf, the heroine has a bad past with the alpha leader, but he still wants her for his mate. She has nightmares about it, shares snippets of past events reluctantly with the hero, and he's angry that she's lived through this and he hadn't known about it so he could have protected her better. But he couldn't have. The pack leader was older and would have killed him. So giving the characters a past, but revealing it in small amounts through dialogue or nightmares or flashbacks can help.
In To Tempt the Wolf, coming Sep 1, the heroine is frantic to rescue her brother from prison. She's already lost her parents, and her brother is her last living relative. She knows he's innocent. She won't stop until she frees him. But the hero has troubles of his own--pack mutinies, home burns down, has to move, sister disappears, and then comes real trouble--the heroine. :) Both are sympathetic because they both have pasts.
Legend of the White Wolf is coming next--both are human this time, he's lost his partners in some kind of hunting scheme and her fiance stole her father's research and both are searching for the truth in the wilds of Maine--Arctic wolves this time--and there's a story behind that too. And after that, two more in the series have sold. So yep, more conflicted characters living in a world of wolves.
But should only our hero and heroines have all the fun? Nope, our villains need to be just as rounded out...good and bad sides, reasons again for their significant problems. And what about secondaries? Sure, if they're important enough. The thing of it is, we can just give a couple of sentences to reveal much about a character, but why would we want to do this if you never see them again? If they highlight the main character, make us sympathize with him or her more, see deeper into their persona, then it's effective. Then it's worth doing.
So bring out the dirt, get out all the bad stuff that happened in the past, make the characters human and readers will love them. :) Even if they're half wolf. :)