Empathy, the least comfortable of human emotions.
~Frances Gray Patton~
An important technique of fiction writing is Deep POV (Point of View). This technique uses the third person point of view in such a way that the reader feels as if she is inside the person’s head—or heart—for that scene.
Which means, as you read, page after page goes by, the words disappear, and you feel as if you’ve experienced what the character experienced. Tears, pounding heart, knotted stomach are signs that the writer has done her job with deep POV.
Why does that matter? Because, as Lisa Cron in her book, Story Genius, writes, “just like life, story is emotion based…In a story, if we’re not feeling, we’re not reading. It is emotion, rather than logic, that telegraphs meaning…”
To tap into that level of emotional connection, the writer has to know her characters, and, whether villain, sidekick, or heroine, she has to empathize with them.
Empathy gives creative power in other forms of art, as well. Painting, music, dance, and theater all convey either pure emotion or use story as a vehicle for emotion.
Yes, you can connect mentally to the structure, design, composition, use of color, contrast, etc, but in order to really have an impact, the emotion—and therefore the empathy—has to be there.
Think of Michelangelo’s “Pieta”, the power of the grieving mother in that piece. Think of Picasso’s “Guernica” and the horror and anger and even despair there. Think of the dark emotions of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. The power of those works arises out of the creator’s empathy.
Empathy is defined as the ability to sense other people’s emotions or to share and understand another person’s emotions and experiences.
To truly reach depth and understanding in your creative work, you need empathy.
Empathy—often a hero’s greatest challenge—is also crucial to a successful, meaningful life.
How you use empathy—in your life and work—matters.