On the subway heading uptown for a Super Bowl/Birthday party at an Irish Pub on the Upper West Side, I realized that part of me was spending a summer day in Buenos Aires. I was there with my characters. While my body was here in New York, on a relatively warm winter’s evening, my mind was wandering the streets of a far away city, inside the life of characters with dangerous thoughts and complicated histories.
My empathy for the characters changed the way I felt and it happens to me all the time. Sometimes it’s just an entertaining diversion, but putting yourself inside scary individuals, criminal masterminds, people filled with darkness or outright MONSTERS can be painful and strange.
It’s easy for a writer to identify with her creations. Slipping into their skin, if only for the sake of the story, is tempting. I’m not chomping my fangs into my next victim or scaling the wall between the balconies of a fancy hotel, but I have to imagine doing those things. I have to find empathy for the characters and go along with their nefarious plans.
So, if you find me eyeing a diamond bracelet with uncharacteristic lust or studying the way a head snaps back when a punch connects, don’t worry about me. I’m just putting myself into a character’s shoes. My empathy winds up on the page. Of course, you may want to be sympathetic when I appear to be in another place. I may be “traveling” but I’ll return.