Monday, May 03, 2010

A Writer's Most Valuable Asset

Boy with Pomegranates,
Pieter de Hooch, c.1632-1681,
oil on canvas.

The ability to put one's self in another's shoes, whether those shoes are Manolos Blahniks or Ho Che Min sandals.
Wikipedia provides several definitions of this affective quality.They all serve to amplify the concept.
I like this one:
William Ickes: A complex form of psychological inference in which observation, memory, knowledge, and reasoning are combined to yield insights into the thoughts and feelings of others...
I didn't see the following when I hastily scanned the topic this morning to double-check the quote - it may be there - but it also struck me as pertinent: the ability to imagine one's self as another person is a sophisticated imaginative process.
I consider empathy the most important tool in our toolbox.
Without empathy how can we expand our own emotions and experience to write dimensional characters?
With empathy, a small moment of private humiliation or an instant of rage can provide the key to creating a realistic victim or killer.
Probably the condition is so natural to a writer, we don't even think to name it, but empathy is responsible for our capacity to create a murderer without the necessity of offing an annoying neighbour.

Am slowly learning my way around Face Book. At first it was more than Greek to me - it was ancient Sumerian.
It's vastly different from blogging in some ways. While my blog is a tiny island in the blogger sea, I am the Miranda of it.
On Face Book, for all the walls and settings, I feel like those tiny swimmy things that whales filter through their corset stays.
On Face Book I am but krill.

Another Silly Joke:

A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband.
Suddenly, her husband burst into the kitchen.
'Careful,' he said, 'CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my gosh! You're cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my gosh! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They're going to STICK! Careful. CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you're cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don't forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them Use the! salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!'
The wife stared at him.'What in the world is wrong with you? You think I don't know how to fry a couple of eggs?'
The husband calmly replied, 'I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I'm driving.'


Jaye Wells said...

Hi Bernita! I know this is off-topic, but I just saw the news about your sale to Carina. Congratulations! I absolutely can not wait to read it!

raine said...

...but empathy is responsible for our capacity to create a murderer without the necessity of offing an annoying neighbour.

Yes. But not nearly as much fun. :)

Agree. Characters created without this feeling usually don't ring true. And a reader can tell the difference.

Love the joke--also rings true, lol.

Rick said...

I agree, but mostly I'm commenting because of the wonderful verification word, satine.

Charles Gramlich said...

I talked a lot about empathy this year in class, because many of those students are going on to be clinical psychologists or counselors of some sort.

Bernita said...

Jaye, thank you! Lovely to see you - I know how insanely busy you are writing more great books.

Yes. But not nearly as much fun. :)

~laughing~ I'm going to have to go change my undersilkies.

wv's have so improved, Rick! Mine on Moonmouse's blog this morning read shine!

Bernita said...

Thought of you, Charles - it's really your province, both the analysis thereof and its application.

StarvingWriteNow said...

My word verif is "shrourb." Is that a shroud in a suburbian shrub?

Anyhow, I agree with the empathy--and it seems to me that, in general, people are getting less and less empathetic (or is it empathic?) today--or maybe they just don't care what the other person thinks/feels/expereiences.

writtenwyrdd said...

Imagination and empathy are so vital to a writer.

Natasha Fondren said...

I agree with Starving: I think people are getting less and less empathetic these days. They're dehumanizing others rather than practicing empathy. That's one of the greatest things art teaches us. Pablo Casal used to say that music could save the world, for that very reason.

LOVE the joke. So true! *blush*

laughingwolf said...

hmmm blowup looks like a girl with pomegranates :O lol


an empath is a totally different ball game

as for the joke... YUP! ;)

Bernita said...

"Shrourb"...sound like it, think you are right, SWN!

I'm not sure. Thing is good stuff is not "news."

Inextricable, Wyrdd.

My mother "usually" kept her mouth shut, Natasha...but I swear there were permanent nail marks in the upholstery of my father's car.AND a worn spot on the floor on the passenger side from her reflexively ramming on the brakes.

Bernita said...

The joke? Surely not you, LW!

laughingwolf said...

furgot: on facebook i'm worse than a krill, more like an omoeba

just be careful what you join/download, apparently a lotta malware on there, as well as predator-types :(

laughingwolf said...

since i only have my kids and/or dog in the car, i can but surmise the truth of the 'joke' ;) lol

Bernita said...

Thank you, LW. I'm really grateful for the tips.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I'm annoyingly (to me) empathetic. And I get shocked when I'm not. But I don't share it much with others.

BernardL said...

Empathy is indeed a valuable writing tool, and is an equally important ingredient for a wife riding shotgun in the car with her husband. :)

Bernita said...

I know what you mean, Betsy.

Clever connect, Bernard!

I've always like the expression "riding sdhotgun."

Kaz Augustin said...

Hey there krill! Plankton here. You know of what you speak. I was talking to someone who purported to be an author a little while ago, and all s/he could do was go on and on (and on) about what contracts s/he was taking up, what work s/he was dropping, how much pressure s/he was under. We spoke for a couple of HOURS yet, never in any of that time, did s/he ask me ONE QUESTION! Not even an "how are you?". Weird, no? It made me wonder what that writer's writing is like?

In other news, my husband loves your jokes. Keep 'em coming! :)

Bernita said...

~muffled giggle~
Krill and Plankton - I like that - secrit identities!
If I haven't said already, Kas is a another Carina author (SF).
She posted an excellent essay on the Carina blog - listen up, Rick - on the similar need for world-building skills between historicals and SF.

Kas, would make me wonder too.

Anonymous said...

I love crawling into another perspective...and getting it (mostly) right.

Bernita said...

You DO getting it (mostly) right, Jason!
And with unusual and subtle variations too!
No cliche mind-melds in your writing.

Steve Malley said...

The joke: I cracked up laughing. The Dynamo met the punchline with a cold-eyed stare...

Bernita said...

Steve, there is no outrage like offended innocence...