What’s the “true ground of all fiction” for you?

“…The advice is a call to empathy, the ultimate act of the imagination, and the true ground of all fiction. All characters are born of this effort to be another person. And its success is routed in the grounded self.”

~Siri Hustvedt in A Plea for Eros: essays


I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately because of my second novel draft. That novel (unlike novel #1 which is undergoing its seventh revision), has only been drafted once. In rereading it and considering where the draft needed to move, I realized that the story was begging for something I had been afraid to write…. a female character needed to live through an experience with her child which seemed unlike anything I could relate to. But, notice the word “seemed”.

As writers, we are blessed with vivid imaginations and I was stopping myself from diving in, from stepping into that woman’s shoes, from becoming my character as much as I could. I’m going to be keeping a journal as her for a while until I’m ready to return to that novel. Until I can feel what she might be feeling. For, as Robert Frost says:

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”

Where is the “true ground of all fiction” for you? Is it somewhere other than empathy?

Happy #writing.

1 thought on “What’s the “true ground of all fiction” for you?

  1. Great post. As a person who has a degree in Psychology, I feel that this superb field of knowledge has helped me understand my characters a lot better than before. I usually think about creating and getting to know a character, much like an actor, I try them on. I try to be them, to think what they would do or say in a certain situation. This is why writing/literature is so amazing, it is painting, acting, cinematography, etc, it is all arts put together and more. 🙂

    I am pretty much like you, some of my novels are at the 5th rewrite, others are at the 3rd edit, others are taken apart and rewritten completely. A motivational speaker said about artists that unfortunately for us, we have no idea of our progress and so it would be difficult to take one’s confidence from how far along you are into the project. I just loved that bit and wanted to share.

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