As a writer, I try to create a vast variety of characters so that they’re not all carbon copies of each other. I’ve made plenty of characters that have gone through tumultuous situations that I’ve never seen or had an inkling of before. Most of the time I think that’s all right, because human reactions vary from situation to situation as well as person to person. Many times the phrase has been said, “There’s no right or wrong way to feel about a situation.” It’s how we handle those feelings that dictates our next move, our next decision, and the path that we take. There’s so many roads, so many journeys for characters to take, but what if that journey takes you somewhere that you’ve never been?
CE Murphy posted on twitter for her followers to tell her one thing about themselves. The first thing that popped into my head was, “I was born and raised in Florida. I’m almost 30, and I’ve never seen snow.”
I don’t shun the stuff, but I’ve just never had the opportunity to see it. The first time I went to New York was in the middle of March. It didn’t snow, but it was the coldest environment I’d ever been in, and the result of not knowing how to deal with it was walking Pneumonia. Still, I’ve never seen the white stuff, never felt it, or had a snow flake on my tongue, gone sledding, or any other reindeer games that come along with the snow experience. So can I realistically write it?
There are plenty of plot environments that come straight from the imagination. Worlds created that have new textures, geography, and so much more, but in a fictional world unlike our own, it’s much easier to simulate something, because it doesn’t have to be exact to our own. People who’ve never been to India send characters their all the time, but is the same as someone who has actually been to India? Someone who has been to the country knows the intimacies, the crooks and crevices that Google may not be able to find. I can use adjectives like crisp, frigid, bitter, but the truth is, I don’t personally know how that feels.
As a writer it’s our job to convey the atmosphere, the tone, and emotions within the story. Our imagination has to be wide enough, vast enough, and creative enough to draw the reader into our simulated literary world. Each word we use has to be precisely picked; especially when it comes to something we’ve never experienced ourselves. Delving into research, asking those around you who have experienced something you’re writing about can help. Readers experience the world through the author’s world. Sometimes, the writer needs to imagine the world through the eyes and experiences of someone else.