I’ve always leaned towards fantasy in my writing, and obviously magic, witches, and dragons aren’t things I can tap into real life experience for. Hell, even some of the emotional experiences my characters go through (losing a father figure, extreme danger at the hands of monsters) aren’t something I’ve experienced. So I rely heavily on an overactive imagination and a really strong sense of empathy.
Our society is immersed in flashy articles, internet communications and multimedia, but we’re detached from each other. We watch and absorb, but how often do we process? In school we’re taught to analytically process, but not emotionally. We’re not taught to empathize and the further we delve into our electronic world of today, the further we separate from the pathos that makes us human.
Now, I know everyone’s grown into different situations and they shape us, create our worldviews and opinions because of them. However, reading is one of the few things that can truly bring us together. Growing up, I read about heroes who were brave, who were scared, who had daddy issues, or struggled with their choices the same as I might. I’ve read characters who were polyamorous, assassins who were forced to kill due to bad situations, and people struggling with racism–whether it be our own society or some fantasy setting. All of these new perspectives forced me to look at people in different ways and reach outside of my own life to grasp what others might go through, or how I might’ve changed given my own situation.
We live in a world where we can flick on the TV and watch actors cry, fight, anything. And maybe, it will stir some pathos in us, particularly the people who are already open to it. But nothing expands worldview like sitting down and reading. Putting yourself in someone else’s head for awhile and living life through their eyes. That, my friends, is empathy.
And empathy? That’s how you create the most realistic characters in your writing and live a thousand lives.