In any job, you have certain tools that are required to be able to do your job properly. Writing is no different. In general, writing requires some sort of writing implement consisting of either a computer with word processing software or ye olde pen and paper. Of course, it also helps to have a fairly decent understanding of the language you are writing in, and a good vocabulary helps as well as basic grammar. Then, of course you need an idea. But is that all you need?
Within the last year, I have met all kinds of writers: pansters, plotters, plotting pansters, natural storytellers, experienced authors, etc. But the one thing that stands out among everyone I’ve met is that the successful writers have empathy. You can write the most gorgeous scene to ever be written, but if your characters are lacking in emotion, you will be lacking in readers. If you can’t understand what it’s like being your character, then no one will be drawn in to your book to find out more. They won’t care enough about your characters to want to learn about them.
It sounds odd to have empathy for imaginary people who only live in your head but think about it. When you go to a movie that catches you up in it, what has drawn you? What is it that hooked you in the first place? What made you care enough to involve yourself emotionally? What about your favorite book? My guess is there was at least one character that grabbed you and held on. You got involved with an imaginary character. Why? Because you were able to empathize with them. And that is because the writer got inside that character and was able to understand him/her and write from their point of view.
As you know, CJ Stuart and I have been doing challenges ths month. We’re both doing the Blogging A to Z Challenge, and I’ve been doing a poetry challenge. Yesterday, the poetry challenge required me to write a persona poem. This is a poem written from a different perspective than my own. There were some really good ones. The best told a story from a fountain pen’s point of view. My blog friend, Lizzi Rogers, wrote from a statue’s perspective. And I wrote from an old woman’s view. (I have included my poem at the end of this post.)
All of us had to be able to consider what it was like to see through another’s eyes, even if those “eyes” happened to be inanimate objects. What makes a story compelling isn’t just a good plot. You also have to have believable characters who get you emotionally involved with them. Mark Twain said, “write what you know.” He was talking about emotions. It isn’t enough to create an imaginary world people want to live in. You must also create people that others want to empathize with. We all want to know that others are going through the same things we do. We want someone to cheer for.
This week I challenge you to write with empathy. See the world from a different perspective than your own. Go out and think about what someone else might be experiencing and try to understand life from their point of view. Or maybe, see things from a new angle. I wonder what the tree in my backyard is thinking…
Have a great Monday!
Advice from Atropos*
By Jesi Scott
Look at me.
Look at me and dread the day you
look like me,
skin creasing, folding in on itself,
hair greying, thinning, turning white
as age gnaws on my bones.
With age comes wisdom,
or so they say.
Let me tell you what I have learned
in this lifetime.
Life is hard and unfair;
it is ugly and messy and so full of disappointment.
It leaves you scarred, your body marked,
and, sometimes your soul, for all eternity.
You will cry and beat your fists in rage;
it’s how we come into this world,
and how some of us go out, still fighting
the current that draws us inexorably
toward the waterfall without a paddle;
we all go over, willing or not.
But there are moments…
Oh, such moments!
Such sweet, pleasurable, blood-racing,
breath-holding, firework moments…
the touch of someone’s hand on
your’s, the sound of a baby’s first laugh,
the scent of fresh spring rain,
the silk of his or her lips on your lips.
Oh, how I will miss the simple
pleasure of a kiss.
So, look at me.
Look at me and remember these days of your youth,
for they will not come again.
Remember the hard days, and the good;
relish every heart-stopping, goose-pimple, champagne-bubble moment,
because these are what get us through,
and make life worth living.
*Atropos is one of the three Greek goddesses known as Fate. She represents one of the three ages of woman known as The Crone.