The Power of Empathy in Writing (and in Life)

1 Jul

The school bully, the class clown, the unfaithful friend. The kid who doesn’t even try.

These are the characters I love.

Why? Because they represent the fascinating, complex, bittersweet reality of life.

I know when I see people like this, who are considered problems often creating hardship for everyone around them, there is more beneath that shell which is all they allow the world to see. Much more. People are never, ever one dimensional and a difficult exterior is almost always a sign of an interesting interior. And often a painful past. It’s that painful past that makes me love them. Because I know they are struggling with it, trying desperately not to need the love they so desperately do.

Everyone is shaped by their environment, molded and stretched and scarred by their experience. That bully? He may have lived in a home with violence and anger all his life and not know anything different. Or, he may have always been indulged, never told ‘no’, never had someone help him learn the give and take of healthy relationships. Now he’s baffled when people don’t really like him. The unfaithful friend may have experienced instability and disrespect in her life that has taught her not to trust people and that it’s better to hurt first than to be hurt. The class clown may be ashamed of not being like his ‘perfect’ older brother. That kid who seems completely bored and sneers at others who try hard has probably been knocked down so many times, he’s learned the only way not to lose is not to try.

There is a great story there if you just look beneath the surface. I like to try to do that in real life and in my writing. Caring quote

When you write, your power to look below the surface is what will allow you to create great characters. Characters that people can cry for, hope for, and cheer for even while they are doing things that make you cringe, that you don’t agree with, or that make you angry. Think about where they might have come from and how it might be affecting them now so that you can love them in some way. All characters need that. In writing, and in life.

 

 

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