Posted On June 7, 2013 by Print This Post

Passion Needs Compassion – Handsome Hansel Tells Us Why!

Welcome back to Handsome Hansel . Today he’s talking about compassion and how well it works with your characters and the world of romance.

I took a little heat recently when I shared what the title of this post was going to be with a writer friend. Right away she asked, “What does feeling pity for someone have to do with Romance?”

In case you haven’t heard, I’m a pantser when it comes to writing. I’m also a pantser when it comes to sending Carrie the titles for my next post and I was afraid this one had come back to bite me.

When you’re a Pantser, you just know and trust in yourself to get you where you’re going with a story. You know what you want to achieve and you believe enough in yourself to get there without a cork board, index cards or stick pins to get you to your destination. (No offense AT ALL to those who use those tools in their writing. I’m actually envious.) So, when I sent my title to Carrie I knew what the gist of my post would be yet my friend’s question had me worried.

I don’t believe in throwing definitions (or song lyrics) into writings as I feel they show a weakness in the writing and here I was, afraid I was going to have to quote Merriam-Webster in order to make my point.

So, in an effort to save face with, well, me, and at the same time explain what exactly I mean by Passion needing Compassion without copying and pasting a definition from my dictionary app, I intend to spell out what I mean and why I feel it’s important in romance writing.

While I feel “Pity” can be a derivative of Compassion, it’s no where near what I feel IS compassion.  All my life I’ve been one to try and save people. No need to get into specifics but by default, empathy for someone in need consumes me. When we read a great romance novel, whether we realize it or not, the attraction between the characters solidifies itself when one or the other commiserate with one another on an intimate level and realize true love is beginning to take hold. While we may get all hot and bothered during the steamy love scenes and, if you haven’t made the leap to e-reading, actually break the spine on your paperback during those moments, it’s those intimate, private, soul-revealing pages where our hearts actually sink and we ourselves fall in love with the characters even more.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, and because a few of my writing friends wanted to challenge me with this… we are talking about romance writing, not erotica. Compassion almost never exists in erotica. Although there was that one Saturday at 2am in college where I complained about a hangnail with a very empathetic Gamma Phi Beta member, but I digress. 🙂

When we write romance, we not only need to draw that compassion out between our characters but we need to have compassion for our readers. We ARE their evasion. They entrust us with what I believe to be one of the greatest responsibilities, escapism. They don’t want to just read about a couple falling in love through the course of 400 pages, they want to fall in love with the characters and believe it can all happen to them. Even if they’re in a committed relationship, they still need the fantasy.

I think sometimes as writers we forget we are also readers. Somewhere along the line, we flipped from, “That was such a great book! I’d give anything to know what happened with the characters after it ended!”, to, “I wish I would have written that.”

We forget what immerses us in a great story to begin with and, as writers do, we spend more time dissecting story lines, plots, and character motivations. (Actually, I’m happy to be a Pantser. No longer envious.) 🙂

Just as the stories we immerse ourselves in, we have to immerse ourselves into our own stories. Not over-think. (A writer’s kryptonite.) Get back to what made us writers in the first place…Compassion. Yes, Compassion. We would see a couple at the local theater during the previews with his arm around her shoulder sharing a tub of popcorn, he checks his phone, his body language reeks of a personal problem, and we watch as she, in solidarity, gives a gentle squeeze to his forearm. All of a sudden that couple becomes a story. Why? Compassion.

As writers, we give a damn. We are our readers balance between reality and fantasy. Our stories are based in a reality we see but our readers don’t. Yet. It’s up to us to show our readers how to care by simply caring ourselves for our characters. But doing it well.

So, how do we do that? By giving a damn…again. Showing our readers the things they may not notice on their own. Or think about on their own. We’ve shown compassion for our characters  in their timelines and plots, we’ve shown compassion for our readers in the story of our characters, now we need to show compassion in ourselves with our final product. The ultimate reveal. The ultimate exposure: Asking for our readers to accept us no matter the circumstances.

We write romance. Something everyone has the chance of achieving. We don’t write period pieces. Westerns. Sci-Fi. We write potential. We give people hope. And in order to give them hope we have to understand, not only where they are coming from but where they would like to end up. As writers, we are a compassionate bunch by nature; as we should be. Quite frankly, that’s from where the best writing stems.When we have a passion for what we do we have compassion for what we do. Our writing is elevated.




Where do you find your inspiration? How is it you become relatable with your characters?

Join us on Monday for Hooray for Hollywood with Robin Covington


Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.

I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at

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14 Responses to “Passion Needs Compassion – Handsome Hansel Tells Us Why!”

  1. Hi, HH. Thanks for being here.

    I like to “interview” all my characters before plotting a book. It’s a great way to figure out what they’re afraid of, what they want for their future, etc. I think it makes them relatable if they have very real fears and dreams.


    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | June 7, 2013, 9:04 am
    • Adrienne,

      What a GREAT idea! Interviewing our characters makes perfect sense. We need to know what makes them tic before we can direct them in our story.

      Thanks for your comment!


      Posted by HH | June 7, 2013, 1:37 pm
  2. Hi HH,

    Compassion and passion drive our emotional health. Both are forces almost beyond our control. I rev up both making things too important to my characters and watch what happens.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | June 7, 2013, 9:40 am
  3. Mary Jo,

    Thanks for the comment! Being a Pantser I love coming up with situations for my characters I myself would have no idea how to get out of. In most cases I can get them out of it!


    Posted by HH | June 7, 2013, 1:39 pm
  4. Agree with you there, Hansel! Passion sans compassion is just dull writing imho. These characters need to be very important to me (the reader). I need characters I can love and I am incapable of loving soulless, non-empathic people. I want to worry about them, feel their joy, their pain and their disappointments. Yes, bring on the passion but never ever forget the compassion!

    Posted by Pucci Laveau | June 7, 2013, 1:49 pm
  5. Hans, you’ve done it again with a great post.
    I’m one of those grown-ups with imaginary friends. Those characters living in my head are very real to me and hopefully my compassion and passion for them come off on the page. I often get to know them by having a yeah-I-talk-out-loud-to-my-characters conversation with them.

    Posted by Amy Denim (@AmyDenim) | June 7, 2013, 3:31 pm
    • Thanks a million, Amy!

      I haven’t talked out loud to anyone who can’t be immediately seen since the unfortunate bluetooth earpiece incident of ’05. 🙂

      I CAN see how having an actual conversation with your characters can help with writing their stories.

      Thanks again!

      Posted by HH | June 7, 2013, 4:44 pm
  6. I also believe that passion needs compassion, however, compassion does not need passion. As you can have compassion for someone without feeling passioned about them (Passion is an emotion,
    compassion is an ability.)

    Pity and compassion are two very different things. When talking about romance, there is no case of pity, there’s a case of caring (compassion.), I really don’t like the questioning your friend raised. Of maybe it’s the formulation. Or perhaps that said friend doesn’t know the difference.

    OR maybe I’m just making too much out of a simple sentence.

    Posted by Soraya E. | June 7, 2013, 3:50 pm
    • Soraya, Soraya, Soraya…

      I COUNT on you making too much out of a simple sentence. 🙂

      When it came to the “pity” definition raised by my friend it turned out to be true. In her dictionary the first definition was: sympathetic feeling, pity, mercy.

      I was surprised as I see you are too. Yet, my idea of compassion was spelled out in further definitions.

      When you say, Passion is an emotion, do you mean entirely? I’ve seen some pretty steamy love scenes between actors and actresses that could prove Passion as an ability as well. 🙂


      Posted by HH | June 7, 2013, 4:49 pm
      • Aren’t you confusing yourself with ”chemistry”? Because when there is chemistry between two people, that’s what you see. You may FEEL the passion between them, but you don’t see the passion between them.

        And yes, I do believe that you can feel the passion between two people even if you’re not near them.

        Emotions are things to be felt, abilities are things to be seen or perhaps witnessed is a better term.

        Posted by Soraya E. | June 7, 2013, 5:07 pm
  7. Hi, HH!

    I read somewhere that you write the first draft for yourself and the second for the reader. Whatever the method, the compassion I infuse in a character is the most real part of them.

    I don’t look anything like my characters, but we share a brain to an extent. I’m the grand master of the story. I can make my H/H do whatever I like, but what I’ve learned is that their motivation, thoughts, and actions are confined by my own sense of morality, beliefs, and compassion.

    I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. Like most writers, a part of me lands on the page, and I can only hope that makes the character seem more real to the reader.

    Thanks for another terrific post!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 7, 2013, 5:10 pm
  8. Oooh, boy. I agree about overthinking being the writer’s kryptonite. But how do you avoid it??

    Great post!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | June 7, 2013, 9:13 pm
  9. Evening HH..

    sorry I’m late….=) finally just got on the computer!

    I’m a pantser. I’ve tried everything not to be….plotting courses of all sorts, outlines, synopses, etc. The closest I get is Laurie Schnebly’s Plotting via Motivation where I make a very small outline of who my characters are and what they want.

    Compassion? It’s necessary. You can have a cold, seemingly soul-less character who doesn’t seem to care for anyone except himself….but he has a dog he watches TV with every night and makes time to take for walks. He sends his grandma flowers on her birthday. He may be the most ruthless person you can imagine – but show little bits of his compassion…and you have a winning hero on your hands.

    Thanks for posting with us today, my friend….=)


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | June 7, 2013, 10:56 pm

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