To write you must, first, understand


One of the most important aspects of writing is being able to set a scene, create an interaction, simulate a dialogue realistic enough that your reader can connect, emotionally, with what’s going on. I know I wouldn’t read a book that didn’t make sense from an interactional standpoint because, quite frankly, if I don’t believe the interactions in a written work are happening or could happen, why would I even bother reading it?

In practice, as a writer, this is something that becomes part of your life, part of your daily “study”. As I’ve gotten farther into my work and further into the idea of “being a writer” I’ve found myself also becoming a student of human interaction and emotion. This study has, for me (and I think it must for any writer), transcended the page and made its way into my day-to-day life in the way of examining encounters with friends and strangers, alike.

I’ve found myself noticing things — a gesture, a look, a connotation — that I wouldn’t necessarily have picked up on before. But, that’s the flip side: it’s because I have also made it a point to do so. Now, this is not to say that I’m sitting around watching a scene play out, looking on as an outsider, scrutinizing people’s actions. Instead, it is more, as an insider — noticing that stray glance and asking, “what was that for? What did it accomplish and/or why did they do that?” I have found that asking these questions is helping me, slowly, I think, to understand better some of the intricacies of our daily interaction.

Obviously, no one can claim to read people (and their interactions/intentions) flawlessly, but the real idea here is: if you understand more about how and why people communicate you can more effectively weave those aspects of real life into your story. It enables you to truly draw the reader in and show them what is happening, yet allow them to interpret your characters’ actions and words for themselves. In order to do that, you need to not only have experienced similar interactions, yourself, but also, to some extent, understand (as I mentioned before) the “why” and “how” of those interactions.

The job of a writer is difficult. You, many times, want to say something, get a particular idea across, change your reader’s mind or make them think about something they might not have, otherwise. I know, personally, that the idea of social commentary and the positive effect that commentary could, potentially, have on a reader is one of the main motivations of my work. But you, as a writer, have to be able to effectively communicate what you want to say to your reader in a way where they are able to take ownership of that thought and make it their own. How do you do that? You mustn’t tell them. When was the last time someone believed something because you told them they should? You must show your reader and allow them come to that conclusion themselves through the characters and interactions you’ve laid before for them. All you can do is suggest, they must do the rest.

1 Comment

  1. The funny thing about those interactional intricacies that you now notice that you never did before is that, in many cases, they are so deeply rooted in our psyche that we who “do” them don’t even realize it making this all the more complicated and interesting….especially to capture & convey via writer’s pen.

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