“The characters were so believable!”
This is a compliment any fiction writer would love to hear.
To craft memorable stories, the writer needs to enter the mind and heart of her characters and then bring them to life on the page.
How do you do this?
Notice how this list applies to our real life relationships?
Imagine how such skills and practice could shape our present day divisions.
While one can never truly know another, the quest to do so—and to be seen ourselves—drives us.
Sometimes to love and madness.
Try putting yourself in my shoes, for a change.
You just don’t understand.
Are you crazy?
She can read my mind.
He really gets me.
It’s easier to write characters with a similar perspective, background, and age as yourself. But to stick with that limits the scope of your creative work. Plus, it’s boring!
Writers who wrote outside their own boundaries brought us great literature from Henry James to Agatha Christie. Men transporting themselves into a woman’s head and vice versa.
Nabokov wrote Lolita in the voice and mind of a murderous pedophile.
The best-selling novel, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, (Mark Haddon) is narrated by an autistic teen.
Let’s consider age.
In Room, Emma Donoghue narrates the book through the eyes of a 5 year old boy being held captive in a small room along with his mother.
J.D. Salinger’s inner 17-year-old, Holden Caulfield, catapulted Catcher in the Rye to classic fame.
My middle-school students were always shocked to learn that cult fav, The Outsiders, narrated by a 16 year old boy, was penned by a teen-aged girl.
Beloved children’s author, Judy Blume, now age 83, attributed the success of her children’s books to her ability to access her inner child. “I’m still like an 11 or 12 year old inside,” she told an interviewer.
How about writing in an age you have yet to be ?
Marilynne Robinson’s, Pulitzer-Prize winning Gilead is a diary from a 76 year old preacher to his young son.
I’ve written stories from the perspective of a confused middle-aged man, a 25 year old exotic dancer, and a 9 year old fire starter. My current project features an almost 12 year old roller coaster enthusiast. To capture her essence, I read childhood diaries, studied old photos, and visualized my 6th grade self.
But it’s the spirit of a 15 year old girl that comes most naturally. Perhaps because 15 was a pivotal year in my life. I also work with teenagers, so I get to know them up close.
It begins like this:
Every school morning, my father wakes me the same way: he yanks open my blinds, slaps his hands together, and says, “Boker tov, beautiful daughter. Time to rise and serve your Creator.”
Once upon a time, I didn’t need wake-up calls. I bounced out of bed as if each day delivered a surprise package. When I was five, I might have found my father’s routine cute, but now my fifteen-year-old brain barely registers Abba’s words. Instead, I hold onto my last dream before it morphs to reality.
“And who knows?” my father booms. “Today might be the day the Messiah comes!”
He says this says every morning. No joke.
What is your inner age?