Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward at Booklifenow

Jeff VanderMeer • March 8th, 2010 @ 11:36 am • Writing Tips

I’ve just added the first post from Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward over at Booklifenow, an excerpt from their great writing book Writing the Other. I love Writing the Other because it espouses in a very specific and detailed way what I’ve always thought about writing characters, and even about writing minor characters: you need to fully inhabit them. Which is to say, if your characters aren’t going to just be carbon copies of you and your own experience of the world, you need to be able to see clearly through other people’s eyes.

I’d definitely pair Writing the Other with Carol Bly’s The Passionate, Accurate Story, because the books share a subset of similar concerns. In Bly’s case she talks in depth about the dereliction of duty on a writer’s part when, for example, writing about a character who works for a major corporation doing something illegal (say, dumping toxic waste illegally) without having any sense of how that affects their moral compass or how they see the world. This is an unsubtle, half-remembered example, but the point is: clear seeing from other perspectives is incredibly important to writing nuanced and powerful fiction.

Both Writing the Other and The Passionate, Accurate Story are recommended books in my own Booklife.

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