A Writer’s Empathy

The wonderful A. J. Lundetrae and I were commenting back and forth on my Liebster Award post and we ended up chatting about writing because we’re both writers. It just so happens that we took my comment about being ‘eclectic’ and spun it into the question below.

‘Perhaps writers, through observing others, naturally train a high skill of empathy?’
– A. J. Lundetrae

It’s true, isn’t it? That we, as writers, have to train a high skill in empathy. It’s the only way to truly understand the characters we’re writing and diversify them. It’s the only way we’re able to create a variety of characters rather than having all of the characters in the book be exactly the same. It’s how we create character interaction, conflict, and understanding.

If we didn’t have an understanding of empathy, all of our characters would be the same. Sure, we could paint them in different colors, different ethnicities, different religions, but if we don’t have an actual understanding of those ethnicities, religions, cultures, people, how are we to accurately depict them? And if we choose not to use a variety, then every character comes from the same background, has the same personality, the same goals, and where’s the fun in that?

With a high level of empathy…

We’re able to create a damaged, tortured character with a past filled with turmoil even though we’ve never experienced one ourselves.

We’re able to write a character who loves to swim even when we fear water.

We’re able to write a character who get excited about winning a basketball game, even though we’ve never played on a sports team before in our lives.

We’re able to write a character who has overcome adversity, who’s outgoing and stands up for what they believe in, even if we are wallflowers.

Our ability of empathy also allows for character growth. We’re able to understand where a character begins and where the character will end because we understand both parts of that character and we understand all the stages, the little goals, in between, even if we are still struggling to meet those little goals ourselves.

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