How to make a character passionate about the new 'world' he is in.

Question: So I've been trying to tackle this problem of making my main character a passionate person. You know, so he actually cares about the well-being of the people around him so much that he's willing to lay down everything for them. But what if the people around him are all new to him?

So I'll give you the very basic picture of my story. This guy, after his odd job shuts down, decides to travel to a new place a make something of himself. However, problems start happening and things get more difficult as he discovers that he is at the center of this place's problems.

How do I make him connect and feel a loss when the people he just met feels a loss? How do I make so he decides to stay and fix the town rather than just leave and find someplace else to make it big. He does have a dark past associated with the place, so I was thinking maybe there is a long-lost family member at stake? Or maybe he decides to stay if only it will help him discover the mystery of this past? I don't know, this is probably a super simple question because it is similar to a large portion of other story models out there. But, I just feel a little stuck.

Any help would be great :)

Answer: This is actually one of the most common types of stories. I couldn't count the number of television series that have been based on it, but some obvious classics are Kung Fu, Star Trek, Quantum Leap, Time Tunnel, The X-Files, Firefly, Dr. Who, and Wild Wild West.

Not that there's anything wrong with using this model. It's always popular, and there are infinite ways to make it fresh.

The basic formula is: the hero (or heroes) arrives in a community that has a problem which the residents are unable to solve on their own. They may not even be aware they have a problem, or that a solution is possible. However, the hero, by virtual of having a different perspective, is able to see the solution and help bring it about. Often the hero has special skills, experience, or resources that help.

In some versions, the hero leaves at the end, either because he has a greater mission to pursue or because he has been so wounded by his past experience that there is no place for him in normal society, so he is condemned to keep wandering. In other versions, the community he saves embraces him and he finds there the home he has been missing.

The reason the hero gets involved in the community's problem is almost always empathy.

Something happens that makes the hero feel empathy towards someone -- often a member of the community who is a victim of the problem or an underdog of some kind. This person is often a child or a pure-hearted young woman (especially if the hero is male). It may be someone who reminds the hero of ...

* himself as a child, or the child he wished he could have been

* his mother/father, or the parent he wished he could have had

* his long-lost sweetheart

* his sibling who suffered a tragic fate

In any case, there is usually a moment where the hero stops being detached and decides to make someone else's problem his problem. Once he's committed, even a little bit, he feels compelled to see it through to a resolution.

It's interesting to note that, if the villain does something mean or threatening to the hero, the hero would probably just move on. It's only when the hero feels empathy for someone else that he gets involved.

A common variation is for the hero to accidentally or inadvertently make the problem worse or bring it to the foreground. You could say he causes the problem, but more likely he just stirs up the hornet nest that was building for some time.

But even in these cases, the hero usually gets involved because he sees that someone else will suffer because of his action.

Another variation is for one of the hero's traveling companions to be the one who accidentally steps on the hornet's nest. Perhaps she unintentionally breaks a local law or custom, or gets embroiled in some dispute that the hero must then get her out of. In this case, the empathy is understood because the relationship between the hero and his companion is established before they arrive at the community.

Best of luck.

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