John says ...

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 May, 2010, 12:00am

It's hard not to feel angry when we see a bully in action, or feel pity for the person on the receiving end of their cruelty.

So Wendy has chosen a theme for her story that is almost guaranteed to get readers emotionally involved with her characters, which is always a good thing.

However, if Mandy just accepted her fate, and didn't take any action to stop Bill's bullying, we would probably not only have a dull story, many readers would also be likely to become irritated with her.

This is because, while they might still feel sympathy for her, they would find it hard to feel empathy with someone who doesn't try to help themselves.

So, what's the difference between sympathy and empathy, two words that can easily be confused?

Well, when we feel sympathy for someone, we feel sorry for them without necessarily understanding what they're going through. Whereas, when we empathise with them, we can put ourselves in their shoes and identify with their emotional situation.

I'd guess most of us would like to think we'd do something, take some action, if Bill was picking on us.

So it was a good move by Wendy, after introducing Mandy as someone who fails to act, to show her coming up with a bright idea to catch out Bill.

However, I think we'd feel sorrier for Mandy, and even more outraged about Bill's behaviour, if we knew more about the tricks he had already been playing on her.

And if Mandy was even cleverer in outwitting Bill in front of Miss Leung, then her journey from victim to victor might be even more impressive.

Let me show you what I mean.