Blogs by John Richard Lindermuth
The Secret Ingredient
7/10/2010 6:33:29 AM
How to create realistic characters
Name your favorite novel.
Now consider what makes that novel stand out from others.
Iíll wager for many of us the answer will be character. Your particular favorite character may differ from mine. But many will cite Emma. Or David Copperfield. Ahab. Atticus Finch. Holden Caulfield. A dozen others who have achieved immortality in our imagination.
So what is it about our particular favorite character that resonates?
Again Iíll wager the answer is because the author has created a character who is as real to us as any flesh and blood person weíve ever met. So how the heck did he/she do it and can we mere mortals hope to emulate such talent?
The answer is simple and involves no secret ingredient hidden from the hoi polloi.
Back at the beginning of the 20th century a physiologist named Jakob von Uexkull coined the term umwelt to describe the technique of stepping into another creatureís world. What he described was, in fact, nothing new but a revival of a lost art. Hunters did it from the beginning of time. In order to hunt a creature the successful hunter becomes, in essence, that creature. He enters its world and thinks as it does.
A nifty trick. But can anyone do it today?
Writers also have been doing it for a very long time.
This secret ingredient has another name. Empathy.
Webster describes it as: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.
Not really. But itís a talent which can be improved upon with practice. Do you think Dickens was capable of creating David Copperfield the first time he picked up pen to write? Of course not. Emma was not the first (or best) of Jane Austenís creations.
All it takes is imagination and practice.
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More Blogs by John Richard Lindermuth
The Secret Ingredient - Saturday, July 10, 2010
Coming Soon - Monday, June 14, 2010
The Long and the Short of It - Saturday, May 15, 2010
What's Wrong With This War? - Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Lunacy In High Places - Tuesday, August 23, 2005
An Individualist With A Conscience - Sunday, February 13, 2005
A Black Day For America - Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Kerry Shows His Stuff - Friday, October 01, 2004
Whose Economy Is It? - Tuesday, August 10, 2004
A Sign-ificant Day - Saturday, March 20, 2004
The Root Of All Evil - Tuesday, March 02, 2004
What CBS Won't Tell You - Saturday, January 31, 2004
Let's Do A Little Reading - Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Comments on My Novel - Monday, January 26, 2004
A Good Day For Writing - Thursday, January 22, 2004