I've only read the book the one time (it was awesome!) and would have to read it again before comparing it to the film. Ender's story was, as I remember it, was told and shown well. I reveled with him in his triumphs, shuddered in fear for him when he was scared, was right there with him the entire time until....
There was a moment, when I wasn't. And that makes me ask, how do we, as writers, create empathy between our readers and our characters?
I worry that my characters aren't understood. That they are all carbon copies of each other with each one given different lines to say than the next one. I worry that the reader won't understand what is going on, that they don't have empathy for the characters, or any emotion toward them at all.
How to move past this? How do you cause the reader to shout for joy at the heroine's big victory, to cry when the hero's world has dropped out from under him in fantastical circumstances that have never, and never will exist?
Showing is a key. Show the reader how your character feels about this or that. And I don't just mean how they feel about other characters, but how they feel about the building they live in, their school or workplace, politics and common ideals. Are they an upright, moral person? How do they feel when they encounter an immoral person, either distantly or up close? Show us what they feel by letting us in on their thoughts, show us what physical action they take, be it raising their fists to fight or doubling over to throw up.
If Showing is the key, then the lock it fits would have to be Commonality. Find something in common between your character and your reader. Oh, your character is an interstellar law officer? How can their worries about the villain destroying a whole planet be related to a reader who has never been in space, whose political concerns are at the national/state/local and always sub-planetary level rather than galactic? Three words for you: Princess Leia. Alderaan.
The reason we feel Leia's pain at Alderaan's fate is because it is her Home. She knows people there. She knows the streets, the buildings. She has laughed and cried, had her heart broken and been swept off her feet there. All of those are things we, real people in the real world, can relate to. There is always a fear of Home being taken away from us and, in that fear, we've each explored the possibilities of what losing Home would mean, how it would make us feel. And, so, we are right there with Leia when it happens despite our lack of interstellar travel, moon sized planet destroyers, lasers and the Force.
I don't know what went wrong in the movie tonight. But at the moment when I should have felt something, I did not. As I said, I've read the book. I knew what was going to happen and it was all I could think about. Perhaps that is what kept me from empathizing with Ender in that moment? Though, I must argue against this because, in all other instances where I did have empathy for him, I knew at those times, too, what was going to occur and the knowledge did not prevent my empathy then.
What are your thoughts on empathy? How do you create the connection between your characters and your readers? Are showing and commonality the tools in your empathy toolbox, or do you have others?