Push the right buttons, and you’ll activate the reader’s emotions. Push the wrong ones, and the readers go boom.
One of my buttons: characters who are tortured, emotionally and physically. That’s a button that’s risky to push. Explosive.
A safer button: characters who have tenuous control of their situation and their selves. Most readers can relate.
A nearly universal button : characters who have lost family, home, country, health–or are themselves lost.
Dunno why all these buttons are about character. But there they are.