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What Every Writer Needs (And reading talk!)

It’s about 6 PM here in Appalachia when I start writing this. I’ve just laid down Watership Down at about halfish way through it. I’m done reading for the day and have a lot on my mind. First, let’s get it out of the way. Yes, I live under a rock. I’ve never read this book or watched an adaptation of it. I was supposed to read it in 7th grade, but life had other plans. So, I didn’t. Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s move on.

I’m reading this book as a buddy read with my friend E from Reddit. She’s incredible. In January, I read Robert Jones Jr’s debut The Prophets with her and I’m glad I had someone to discuss that book with. It was really deep and that man needs to write another book ASAP!

(SPOILERS AHEAD FOR WATERSHIP DOWN- MAYBE)

Fiver was right about something bad happening to the warren. Everyone knows this. It’s the main premise of the book. When I was reading the part where Holly is telling and reliving what happened at the warren after the escapees left – I had to put the book down for a moment. It was a bit much for me to imagine being a rabbit gassed to death or shot by a human. Yep, I’m that sort of person. Now all the credit for me ‘feeling’ this goes to Richard Adams the writer of Watership Down.

This reminded me of lots of other times when I just paused to imagine how horrible or delightful or scary something must’ve been – from tv, movies, and of course books – but also just pondering it. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid. That moment where my brain freezes and all I can think about is what something might or must feel like. What would I feel if X or Y or gods forbid Z happened to me?

Over the years I’ve been asked by a lot of aspiring writers what it really takes and I always say just put your ass in the chair and write. That’s what I do! Okay!! Okay! You caught me! Sometimes my ass is in the bed or on the floor when I write, but you get the idea.

And speaking of ideas! Folks – readers, friends, and fellow writers love to ask me where I get my ideas from. Well, for a while I wasn’t sure. I mean my emotions? For me, it’s usually one of three of avenues.

  1. They come to me. Not ideas. Characters and their emotions and situations come to me.
  2. I really need to put something I feel into words and give the emotions to my characters. That way I’m not carrying them around all by myself.
  3. Something happens and I stop and say ‘What would I feel like if X, Y, or Z happened to me?’

I think that’s it. I mean, sometimes it starts with a dream of a character, but that falls under one.

So, you all came here to find out what this writer thinks every writer needs and the answer is empathy. If you struggle to make your characters feel real – step back and empathize. What are they feeling? What would they do with those emotions or urges?

Happy reading and writing!

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