How Do We Get Inside our Reader’s Head? Empathy Mapping

July 20, 2017

Who Is My Reader?  If you don’t first ask yourself who your reader is or is going to be, how are you going to know how to write to them?

Start by thinking of one person you absolutely know will read your work:  friend, mother, sister, husband, child…  Then start picking apart that person’s character… well not really, but let’s look at them:

  1. Name

  2. How old is this reader?

  3. What do they do for a living?

  4. What are their hobbies?


Then let’s take a look at their mood when they read your book.  Is there something significant going on in this person’s life right now?  Marriage, pregnancy, bad luck, etc. that might affect their feelings when they read my book.  In other words, is this person sad and if they read my book are they going to cry?


Now let’s see what this person knows about the topic I am writing about.  Are they a romance reader, but this is a historical fiction book?  Will that affect their understanding?  Is this reader too young to read what I am writing because there are curse words, etc.  What objections might they have to what I am writing?


So, they have read your book, now what?  How do you want him/her to feel after they have read your book?  Do you want them to be happy because it was hysterically funny?  Will they be deep in thought about life as they know it?  How exactly do you want them to feel?

Have you ever heard of Empathy Mapping?


It was developed as a way to gain insight into your readers (customers).  If you are a writer, it is a great way to get inside your reader’s head.  How can you experience what they are experiencing when they read your book?


The idea consists of painting a picture of a typical day for your reader. 


Creating your Empathy Map will take about 30 minutes of your time, but will be well worth it.


  1. Get a big, plain white piece of paper.

  2. Draw a picture of your reader in the middle.  It doesn’t have to be true to life…even a circle with a face is fine

  3. Divide the page around the picture into four sections:  Thinks/Feels,  Sees,  Says/Does,  Hears

  4. Divide a small portion of the bottom into two sections.  Label the right section Gains and the left section Pains.

Then start filling in your page.  Write down everything you know about a reader as it relates to each section of the page.    Then sit back and examine all that you have written.  You can do this with several readers…especially ones that have given you feedback.


Google Empathy Maps and take a look at some samples.