Take a walk in their shoes: Empathy and emotion in the writing process

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Gandolfo, Enza ORCID: 0000-0001-9215-2500 (2014) Take a walk in their shoes: Empathy and emotion in the writing process. TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Programs, 18 (1). ISSN 1327-9556


Christos Tsiolkas said Dead Europe ‘was a very difficult novel to write. It ... took me, in the writing of it, into dark and fearful places. As a writer you take on aspects of your characters and if you are not careful the world you are creating begins to blend with the world you actually inhabit’ (Tsiolkas 2008). There is substantial research demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of writing about one’s own traumas. But what are the challenges of writing fiction that requires imagining and creating traumatic events; evil, monstrous or tragic characters? If, as many argue, fiction makes readers more empathetic, it is because writers have created believable worlds that readers can inhabit. In order to create believable worlds that readers can inhabit these worlds and the characters that people them, writers have to inhabit their characters’ lives. This can mean spending years in very dark places. In this article I explore the emotional and physical impact this has on writers and look at ways writers might manage what Marguerite MacRobert calls the ‘emotional roller coaster’ (MacRobert 2012). This is an autoethnographic article and my aim is to contribute to our understanding of the processes of creative writing by exploring and interrogating my experience of writing fiction about traumatic experiences.

Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/26750
Edition April 2014
Official URL http://www.textjournal.com.au/april14/gandolfo.htm
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > College of Arts
Keywords creative writing; fiction
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