Thursday, August 9, 2012

Empathy in Spades

As you all know, the first book in my new series, Mystic, is due to release this month. I'm thinking sometime around August 21 but that could change depending on the amount of time it takes me to get it formatted and the back cover worked out for the print version. Keep your eyes here for the release announcement!

I've had my usual reader and my usual editor ripping me apart for the sake of everything that's good and forcing me, in their wisdom, to re-write a number of sections. Something that they've both said while reading my series has given me reason to pause and consider.

"I can see you and your struggles in this book."

I have wracked my brain to figure out why in the world they would say that. I've never had to struggle with coming out to my family and friends and I've never lost my looks due to a horrific accident. Then, like a lightning bolt thrown by the mighty Zeus, it hit me: I can put myself in someone's shoes and feel right along with them. As a writer, when I'm crafting a scene, I'm in the body and mindset of the character. I feel what they feel and allow my fingers to relay that to the page.

Writing is taxing, emotionally, some days because of this.

Sometimes, I have to pause and play the entire scene out in my head, thinking about what I would do next and how I would feel if I were experiencing what the character is going through.

Writers have empathy in spades. Writers tend to feel very deeply. Writers must identify.

If you all remember my post a while back about Writers that Cannot Feel... Cannot Write, you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about. We must be able to communicate those emotions effectively to the page. Remember my post about keeping a feelings bible? I practice what I preach and keep one myself. When I need a great sadness or a great fear to come across on the page, I delve into my feelings bible and come out with the mindset to empathize with my character. It gets easier to call on it when I need it with time.

But, I digress.

My point to all this rambling is, I know very few novel writers who are judgmental. They tend to accept you for exactly who you are. Writers listen as well as they talk. It's so rare to have people who are genuinely interested in our life story, when we come across them, we word vomit. It's a safe haven for venting. Sure, you may show up in a book at some point because you spilled the beans to an author, but your name will be changed. Hell, you might even acquire a super-power.

Journalists may be a whole different story. Just sayin'...

I read a post today over on Depression Cookies where Tia talks about meeting writers and how they feel like friends after just a short period of time. It has to be the empathy factor.

But when you tell your life story to someone who writes novels, or let loose with an admission of something you feel badly about doing, you're more likely to get a pat on the hand than a slap in the face. It's because they traveled with you during your tale; they felt what you felt. Hopefully, when your life shows up on the page of a book, other people feel it, too.

After all, that's our job, right?

Have you ever had someone tell you they felt very strongly what your character felt and could identify with them? How did that make you feel?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

4 comments:

  1. Love the ideas here, especially about the feelings bible! Never heard of that one and I think that's a great tool to get in the mindset of your characters. Another awesome post =)

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    1. Thanks, Heather! I am an odd duck and come up with many different ways to make my stories have the two-punch. Glad to share :)

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  2. Great post, and thanks so much for the mention. It is rare that I meet an author I don't connect with, although I connect with some more than others (I know we'll meet in person one of these days, Jo!). It's a great feeling to have that feeling of belonging. Really enjoyed your post, as I always do.

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    1. You're welcome, Tia. The writer community is an awesome one and I'm proud to be a part of it. Thanks for stopping by!

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