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Writing About People, Not Things February 16, 2014

Posted by Al Philipson in Uncategorized.
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I met a nice teenager on Twitter who wants to be a writer. Like many teens, she thinks of herself as a “loner”. Probably even when surrounded by her classmates.

Anyway, she seems quite typical for her age group. Interested in the gee-whiz kick-butt semi-super-hero stuff that passes for entertainment for so many of today’s kids (and I’ll admit that I occasionally find something in that mix that entertains me, even at my advanced years).

She seems to want a friend who can listen to her ideas and give her clues (hard to do in 140-characters segments). I’m trying to get her to pay a bit less attention to “gee-whiz” and more to people’s hopes, shortcomings, failings, aspirations, etc. which is the hallmark of just about all good literature. It’s not easy. Especially in this day when “flash” is so often valued over substance.

Teens have so little “life experience” to draw upon, especially if they are truly withdrawn into a shell of their own making. What she, and any author who ever wants to write good stories, has to do, is to be around and study people and learn to empathize with them and their various worlds.

But the problem isn’t always limited to teens. Too many adults live in closed worlds where the other people around them are just images that pass by without being examined or experienced. When these people aspire to be writers, they’re already starting with a handicap because their characters will never come to life. They’ll be the same plastic images they’ve ignored in their “real” lives.