H is for Helpless

Readers may think of the words like heart, happy, hip, horse, or hopping for H words but I propose that when writing engaging stories your character needs to be in a situation where there is a helpless feeling or a sense of hopelessness.  Help and Hope, now those are good H words. A lack of hope and help nearby gives room for a change and growth in the life of the character. It is what keeps the reader wanting more.... to see the character struggle and  change.

It makes sense that if the reader can see and feel the helplessness and hopelessness in a character who learns and struggles to change or who finds hope, then there is the same possibilities for the reader. Readers want to read to discover and fall in love with a character, they want to care. But they also want to find the same hope and help for their own lives.

To keep your reader engaged in the story and in sequels about the character,  the key is to develop a lovable character with flaws. Those flaws will render the character helpless in a situation, say lost in the woods face to face with a big brown bear. Through the fight to gain hope in a hopeless situation, the character develops personal growth and gains the readers admiration.

In your next story, try adding words that make the character helpless and hopeless. Develop a strong story around finding help and hope and you will have a story that readers will love.


  1. Never thought about helpless that way, but it's true that having a character who at least thinks s/he is helpless could add lots of great tension.

  2. So true! Good post! It's good to be able to pull the reader into the situation and make him or her feel like he or she is there.

  3. Great post. It can be hard to fight the fairy tale impulse when writing (making everything end up happily ever after), but the characters I have loved most are my most flawed. It's a fine line, though, balancing despair with living.

  4. Hi, Julie!

    Helpless and hopeless. Well, we at least want our characters to have a little bit of hope!

  5. Hi, Yes, those are great suggestions! Hopefully, my characters often feel some helplessness, but always are aware of hope. :) Best regards to you, Ruby

  6. Good post. Empathy is so very human. Geesh, I hate it when I invest time in a book and can't find a way to connect with the characters. Visiting from A to Z. Nice to "meet" you .


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