Courage and Empathy of Writers

antagonist love

It is my theory that writers have a deeper understanding of human motivation and behavior than others in the general population. They may not have the expert terminology of a neurologist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, but their comprehension of what goes on in our heads is significant.

In order to write three-dimensional characters, writers must become students of human behavior. We need to be able to show how a victim of a rape would respond to police and their own thoughts. We need to show how a child would react when their orange balloon is popped by a dead bird falling from the sky.

We may have experienced a few or similar situations to what we put our characters in, but I certainly hope that most of us have not had to live through the torture we exact upon our characters.

Pushing, pulling, and fractured the prior life of a character moves beneath the surface of the story.  Writers understand that experiences and present circumstances motivate actions and thoughts. As we discover our character’s backstory and their present role in our novel, we know that these flow into and around one another.

People in the real world are no different. The difficulty in predicting their behavior and decisions is that we don’t know their backstory and we may not have a full understanding of the present circumstances and pressures from the environment, which will influence the ultimate outcome.

I wonder, are writers more empathetic and accepting of other people’s faults because they know even the most heinous villain could change if they were presented with the right “plot points” in their life?

Writers are also more courageous than your average Joe on the street. They look into the eyes of the worst types of people and still love them on a deep level. You cannot effectively communicate who your antagonist is if you don’t love them, and the reader will be unable to suspend their disbelief regarding the antagonist’s motivation, decisions, and actions.

Not only do writers stare pure evil and insanity in the face, they also destroy what is pure and innocent in the world. Some writers may not want to admit to loving their antagonist, sometimes not even to themselves. No one wants others to cast judgment upon them for the devilry committed by a character.

Just because you understand and empathize with your character doesn’t mean that you are evil or would commit any acts committed by your characters. We all have evil, awful, destructive, lustful thoughts.  Anyone who says they don’t, is lying. Writers are just brave enough to put them out there for the world to see.

Perhaps, writers are less likely to commit heinous acts because they have expressed them rather than holding them in and bottling them up.

4 thoughts on “Courage and Empathy of Writers

  1. I really relate to this. I once had someone call my antagonist pure evil and I stood up for him. I told them that they didn’t know his background. If they did they might have viewed him differently. Then I had to make sure they still knew I thought his actions were wrong. ha


      1. I think it’s because every character we write has a portion of our personalities somewhere in them. So, we take it as though someone is saying something about us instead of just our characters.


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