1. S S
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    S S Active Member

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    Writing Through Empathy Or Experience?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by S S, Oct 4, 2014.

    Hi guys,

    I just thought it would be interesting to hear which, empathy or experience, people on the forum write from. I personally, have limited life experience, being only twenty, but I'd like to think I'm emphatic, and I always try to put myself in others' shoes. Empathy is my technique of choice while writing, although I know a lot of people would disagree with my view on its effectiveness, even my old English teacher used to say "write what you know."
     
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  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's a combination of the two (cop-out, I know :p). I know how I've reacted/thought in certain circumstances, but I've also observed how others react/think under similar/same circumstances, and being able to understand why they may react/think differently is an immense help in writing.
     
  3. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Empathy is understanding (or close to) how another person is feeling, in other words 'knowing. So writing from empathy is a form of 'write what you know'.
     
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  4. ladyphilosophy
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    ladyphilosophy Member

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    Writing about "what you know" does not necessarily have to be constrained to things you have experienced yourself directly. We understand a lot, as humans, about other people and can imagine ourselves in situations we ourselves have never been in. It actually took me quite a while to realize this because I too was always being told "write what you know" and thought that that meant I couldn't write stories set in different time periods or from the perspective of a man, for instance.

    But empathizing with characters is a kind of experience, because we have to imagine ourselves what we would do in that situation, what it would feel like, what would be going through our heads. So in a way empathy and experience are the same thing. My answer would be empathy though, as writing directly from experience normally is quite limiting unless you've led an unusually exciting life.
     
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  5. jonahmann
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    jonahmann Active Member

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    Some of both. I'm writing about teenagers so I try to remember what it was like. I also incorporate more recent experiences like a chat with the neighbour. When writing other characters like the mum' reaction, that's when I try to empathise.
     
  6. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I doubt the novels about Rome, Middle Ages and other historical periods were written through experience. :p
    Also, there are tons of noire and crime novels written by authors who never participated in any crime. Some have better feelings,/instincts/empathy than others, and those have a chance of succeeding.

    I myself think something like this: you can start writing about something you know, but you are bound to come across a scene/section you know nothing about, but cannot omit. In this case you need to do a research, but that's not an experience anymore is it? Then you have to trust your instincts and empathy to write these "uknown" scenes in the bast way possible.

    I personally am more of an empathy "fan". Even if one is not good at it, one can learn about it. It's pure psychology IMO. :)
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Why must the two be mutually exclusive? All writers draw from experience, and all writing is about empathizing with the characters.
     
  8. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I write from empathy, experience, and research.
     
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  9. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Write what you know. If there's something you don't know, go and research it.

    Experience plays a larger part if you're writing non-fiction.
     
  10. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    I have written from both the position of empathy and experience, despite the fact I am under 30 years of age I have had a lot of experiences in my life both good and bad, I have a great deal empathy for people who have had similar or the exact same experiences that I have had.
     
  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Mines a hodgepodge.

    I wouldn't worry about lack of experience - it's not the experiences that matter it's how you can turn the ones you have + opinions + views + observations into something of interest. Having read a lot of autobios when I was younger I realized that even the most exciting experience can be turned into dry anecdotes.

    I would also say observation can often trump experience because experience can be limiting, distorted, and cause judgments whereas observation allows you the freedom of taking in multiple peoples experiences and getting a more rounded viewpoint for what you need.
     
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  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I was reading something the other day that according to Hemingway (I'm pretty sure) the greatest works of fiction are at essence autobiographies. The plot and events may be largely fictional, but the heart of the piece (and often times a lot more than that) is directly relevant to the author. Taking a look at what I consider to be some of the great works, I'd have to agree that in many cases this is true.
     
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