Of all the skills a good writer needs in order to write well, I think one of the most important is empathy. It doesn’t matter if you have excellent grammar, seamless plotting, or snappy dialogue. If you don’t have empathy for your characters, both the heroes and villains, then the story is going to show it. Characters are going to feel two-dimensional, like cardboard cutouts.
You, their creator, have to get inside their heads, understand their motivation, their backgrounds, their reasons for being. If you can’t understand them, even sympathize with them, the characters are doing to appear flat on the page. Plus, the reader will pick up on that because they won’t be able to empathize with the characters.
Unfortunately, empathy is one of those traits that you either have or don’t have, and additionally, there are degrees of empathy. What I mean is that we can feel bad for someone having a rough time. Let’s say someone lost their pet. Some people will feel bad for them, others will be reduced to tears, while a few simply won’t care.
Can empathy be learned or acquired? Good question, and honestly, I have no idea. I’m one of those who tend to be overly sensitive to other’s pain and misfortune. I wasn’t necessarily raised that way. I mean, some of my relations are sensitive like I am, while others are indifferent. That makes me think it’s not genetic, but something we might learn when we’re young, like being kind or helping the less fortunate.
I’ve had empathy on my mind lately, hence this blog post. It’s also the topic of my next podcast episode. I think I’m struggling to understand why people aren’t more sympathetic. Or why more people aren’t more sympathetic.
Personally, I think that empathy and creativity go hand in hand. In order to write compelling characters, we have to feel their pain and joy. It’s as simple as that. And I think it applies to being a good person, as well. In order to be a good person, regardless of your faith, beliefs, or lack thereof, we have to be able to feel and understand the emotions of others.
I know, this post is all over the place. I’m struggling to understand and writing about things helps me to sort it out in my head.
Anyway, if you have a comment or opinion on empathy, feel free to leave it below, or contact me on social media.