Have you ever realized that what you’re writing something that you’ve never experienced or wanted to experience?
Just to premise this, I am not an animal person. I’ve been terrified of dogs my entire life. When I was little, my entire body broke out in hives the size of baseballs whenever I was around any animal with fur. I still remember the oatmeal baths that I had to have. I’ve never been fond of the smells, the fur all over the place or the noise that they always make. Dogs barking all night, cats shedding, or the smell of my cousin’s turtles just drove me crazy. My husband and I have an agreement that he can have pets once I’m dead. I’m not saying this because I’m have to say something against pet owners.
I understand that there are people who don’t like babies, children, sports, etc. Everyone has their own personal preferences. Everyone has their likes and dislikes.
Mine just happen to be animals. And I never understood pet owners. Why would they stay home from work because their pet is sick? Why would they let their pet sleep on their bed? It never made sense.
Gradually, I’ve incorporated animals into my writing, and they were so subtle that I barely noticed that they were there. Then I needed to start researching the difference between dogs and cats. I learned that cats are natural hunters. I seriously thought dogs were the hunters, but apparently not. I went to the zoo to watch animals in their ‘natural’ habitat.
Today, I think I reached the apex. I wrote a scene where my MC talked about how much she missed her dog. Sure, this isn’t what you might consider a normal dog, but in essence, that’s what she misses. Her dog’s been a constant companion, and now she’s alone. She misses the animal.
This is an emotion that I really haven’t been exposed to, much less experienced. As I wrote the scene, something clicked. I finally understood pet owners, and their strange attachment. It’s not about the smells that animals give off, or the fur all over the furniture, it’s the companionship that’s provided.
Sure, I probably will probably never have an animal in my house. I’m still terrified of dogs, but I feel like a tiny part of me now will be able to sympathize with those whose pets are sick, or dying.
Writing can be almost cathartic because it helps me work through issues that I never even knew I had. And it pushes me to understand others, to try and put myself in their situations.
What about you? How do you try to put yourself in your character’s shoes when you don’t understand them?