I’ve seen this question floating around here, so I wanted to tackle it on this blog. There are a lot of things that we write about that we might not have personally experienced and it can be difficult to find the right emotions. Whether you’re writing about love, loss, terror, etc.—it’s important you find a way to dig deep and put yourself in the minds of your characters. So, how do you do this?
I’ve seen people focus on love in particular. If you’ve never been in love, how do you write about it? How do you create a love interest that’s believable? How do you write about a relationship if you’ve never had one? The important thing to remember is that we’ve all had relationships…even if it hasn’t been a romantic relationship. We’ve all cared about someone, even if we haven’t necessarily loved them. It’s hard to define “love”, so it can be hard to tell if we’ve actually experienced it. However, you can pull from your personal relationships—do you have a mother you care about? A father? A brother or sister? Did you ever have best friend or a grandparent who you loved? Feelings of love can come from anywhere; you just have to shape your experiences to fit your story. Most of us know what it’s like to care about someone. You just have to find a way to intensify your own emotions and put them in your writing.
Here are a few tips for writing about emotions you’ve never experienced:
Try to uncover the closest experience you’ve had to the one you want to write about. For example, if you’ve never lost someone, try to think about loss in a different way. Have you ever had a friend that you cared about that just stopped being friends with you? That’s still loss. If you’ve writing about the loss of a parent, you don’t need to have experienced that to write about. Think about any other loss you’ve experienced and use those emotions to remember what it feels like. Writing is an emotional process, but you can use those feelings to create something amazing.
Build on what you know. I’m not going to say write what you know because obviously you’re trying to write what you don’t know, but you can build on your own experiences. You might not know about being a wizard and going to school, but you do know about going to school. Take your own experiences from school and add the fantasy elements to it. You can do this with any situation in writing. This will help your writing stay relatable and realistic.
Draw from someone else’s experiences. Most of us have been around a person who has gone through a particularly rough (or great!) time. We’ve seen someone else lose someone they love, we’ve seen someone go through a break-up, or fall in love. Chances are you remember how they acted or how they got through that experience. Maybe they opened up to you about it or helped you understand their situation in some way. You can use these emotions in your writing, even if you’ve never had them yourself. Writing is a lot about observing other people, so use those skills.