Answer by Sheri Fresonke Harper:
A sympathetic character is one where the reader willingly goes inside the character's mind.
Most books start with the character thwarted in some way. A sympathetic character offers a compelling portrayal of how that character faces adversity.
Note: the save a cat idea is appealing but only if their character likes cats and the cat needs saving. Make sure the character acts on their wants almost immediately.
Some of the things to think about:
1) can most people relate to what the character wants and their willingness to sacrifice themselves in order to obtain the goal? Is it a worthy goal?
2) what is the mind set of the character? is it positive? or negative? do they whine or seek their own solutions? are they active or passive?
3) how does the character grow? does the main character set aside awful experiences and take on an improved state of being?
4) does the character seem believable? do you know people like this?
5) how different from the run of the mill is the character? if your character is too much like everyone else, why go there? If your character is odd in some manner, does the reader learn about that oddness?
Sympathetic characters feel emotions, recognize the needs of their bodies, and react to the world around them. Is the character portrayed with enough sounds, smells, sights, touches, tastes and reacting?