It’s a quality some of us have, and a lot of us don’t have. But, I think most writers have empathy. Because how could you create fictional characters without it?
If a person is unable to put themselves into another’s shoes, they certainly could not create a complex human being with a three-dimensional personality out of thin air.
No way. Those who do not possess empathy can generally only see the world from their perspective. It’s hard for them to step outside themselves, and truly filter their thoughts and emotions through the eyes of another.
Today, when I sit down to write my script, I better bring lots of empathy to the table. I better know my characters inside and out. Feel their pain. See their accomplishments. Understand their desires. And to do that, I need to know who they are. What they want out of life. What things went wrong for them…and so on.
There are varying degrees of empathy. There are people who can feel the most minor discomfort in another. And there are others who are completely blind to the fact that we are all individuals with unique personalities, spirits, goals and dreams.
A writer who drafts an amazing screenplay, such as “Unforgiven” (1993 Academy Award for Best Picture), really knows how to bring characters to life. And they do it in such a way that you almost feel like you know the characters personally after only watching them on-screen for 2 hours. It’s awesome when a writer possesses so much empathy that they can write about a 19th-century outlaw as if they’ve known the guy for their entire life.
I strive for empathy in my life. And, I think I’ve always had empathy. Although, I pretend not to have it sometimes. And that’s mostly to protect myself.
But, I have it. And, I don’t think I am this amazingly awesome person because I have empathy. Far from it. There are a lot of things I would love to change about myself, just like us all, but I am aware of the empathetic aspect of my personality. And the reason I am so aware of it, is because it can bring me both great joy and great sorrow.
Great joy…because…I can truly find enjoyment in someone else’s happiness. Like the other day. My wife and I were driving by these little kids selling iced tea at their little “stand.” Cars just zoomed by them. Not paying them any attention. We stopped. And bought two iced teas (which were pretty gross haha). And when we went on our way. The kids were grinning from ear to ear. It was awesome.
Great sorrow…because… I feel other’s pain. And that’s the crappy part of empathy. And that’s the aspect that I try to shield myself from. But, I think you need to embrace that aspect. Because it helps you become a better person – someone who is aware that people out there hurt. And, hopefully, by knowing that…you become a kinder person. Someone who can look at a person, and know that “hey, maybe it’s just not that guy’s day.” And, also, it will hopefully show you that you should never take for granted the gifts you have. Such as family, health or an amazing professional football team to root for. 🙂
Today, when I write my screenplay. I want to feel all of the things my characters feel. And when I go outside, I want to try to see the world through the eyes of the people I meet.