Wednesday, August 12, 2015

6 Ways Writers Bring Verisimilitude to a Character's Experience

We fiction writers attempt to create authentic character experience, largely from events we have never experienced. Of course, we often draw from memories to bring verisimilitude to our writing, but just as often, if not more so, we write of things we have never seen, touched, emotionally felt or responded to.

Writers attempt to create the familiar and unfamiliar daily. If we are true in our creation, our readers will believe in the moment we depict.

Writers attempt to make readers sympathetic. We turn them into partners who can feel what our characters are feeling to such a degree that, however momentarily, they are in the same emotional instant of being as the character we painstakingly created.

In other words, our readers laugh, cry, wince, tremble, and smile just where we want them to as they read. Either the reader never experienced the situation or they have. In either case, they deepen the connection through imagination and through their own personal experience.

With the desire to develop our characters so our readers commiserate and celebrate with them comes the need to grasp the nuances of these unique and often powerful incidents.

There are six main ways writers do this:
  1. We talk to friends, family and professionals who can provide the needed information
  2. We research by reading texts, maps, and internet sources, etc.
  3. We seek the experience
  4. We keep copious notes about what naturally occurs in our lives
  5. We observe closely when others go through events around us
  6. We draw from our imagination, using all of the above to produce something that has yet to be experienced by anyone
Consider the following list:
  1. getting married/divorced/widowed
  2. childbirth
  3. being burned
  4. breaking a bone
  5. being hit by a car
  6. falling a great height
  7. sneaking/breaking into a home/business/institution
  8. stealing
  9. lying for the sake of survival
  10. flying a plane
  11. grave illness
  12. flying in space
  13. crashing a car/plane/motorcycle/boat
  14. losing a limb
  15. fighting a monster
  16. being shot at
  17. shooting someone
  18. making a movie
  19. abusing
  20. being abused
  21. building a house
  22. crafting a work of art or necessity
  23. fixing a machine
  24. programming a computer
  25. building a computer
  26. running a country
  27. taking over a country
  28. assassination
  29. jumping on/off a train
  30. falling in love
  31. hate
  32. raising a child
  33. teaching a skill or knowledge
  34. running a plant/warehouse, business
  35. running from an enemy/attacker
  36. running any complicated machinery
  37. running a marathon/extreme sports
  38. climbing a mountain
  39. hunting
  40. dressing a deer/pig/cow/etc. (I don't mean with clothes; however, that might be something a character might have to do, so perhaps that should be on the list)
  41. cooking a complete meal
  42. painting a picture
  43. losing one's mind/memory
  44. caring for the elderly
  45. raising a child with a disability
  46. training a horse/dog/monkey/donkey/etc.
  47. sculpting
  48. treating an injury
  49. designing clothes/interiors/architecture/etc.
  50. drowning 
  51. miscarriage of a pregnancy
red - events I acquired information about or observed from family, friends or professionals so I could use it in something I've written
purple - what I have personally experienced and may have used
orange - what I had no experience in but I did use in my writing and augmented through additional research
white - have not needed to know yet

Obviously, the list is incomplete and infinite in potential length.

We writers are busy creating characters who go through believable experiences. If you are a writer, what unusual or challenging experience did you have to craft for your work? If you are a reader, what experience did a character go through that captured an emotional and physical connection from you, that made you respond because it felt that real?


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