Life is the stuff that stories are made of.
We have all heard that or at least something similar. We are told as children that we should write what we know, use writing as a means of expressing ourselves.
I was recently challenged by the statement, “I understand how you feel.” Really? You do? I don’t think that you do. I don’t think you can understand the depth of my emotions, the hurt, the pain, the joy, the contentment, the relief, the sorrow. You haven’t been through what I have been through, nor have I been through what you have been through. There is a divide in our understanding. There are some things that you will never quite comprehend about me and there are certainly things I will never fully grasp about you. If this sort of talk is left unchecked we would all be very lonely and miserable, wallowing in our own self pity. Fortunately, I don’t have to rely soley on my expereinces to understand emotions or even to understand where you are coming from.
I think that is one of the reasons why I write. I find it comforting and maybe a little sadistic to put my characters into situations so that they can relate to how I feel. They are perhaps the only ones who could say to me “I know how you feel.”
My characters become my emotional support, or rather my emotional cleansing. They help me to actually understand my emotions and even begin to understand the emotions of those around me. I can make my characters respond to the situation five ways from Sunday and I can use the other characters as test cases for how people will react to me. I can safely say that writing and the process of story writing has helped me gage my responses so that I did not say what I wanted to say but say what I ought to say that way no one actually got hurt by my words or actions.
I suppose it was a very useful tool for me as a child, but I still find that premise of sorting out my problems and emotions through writing a great boon and actually adds some depth to my characters. And I learn a lot about myself in the process.