In my opinion, the most important tool in a novelist’s arsenal is empathy. A writer must be able to put herself into the shoes (i.e. minds and emotions) of people of all types and persuasions. A writer must be able to empathize not only with her heroes but also with her villains.
Easier said than done.
Sometimes the way people behave mystifies me. Over the past year, I have watched as one woman has tried (and is still trying) to force her will on others. Sometimes she’s acted irrationally, sometimes hatefully, sometimes like a spoiled brat. It would be easy to just respond in anger and frustration, but as I’ve observed her behavior, I’ve realized that she is a miserably, unhappy person. And miserable, unhappy people are prone to spread misery and unhappiness to those around them. It’s a reminder that hurt people hurt people.
For the novelist, no life experience is wasted. If we are wise, we learn from everything we experience, see, hear, read, and then we draw from those things we’ve learned as we write.
Hurt people hurt people. I have a feeling this reminder is going to find its way into one of my books soon.