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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Writing About Your Obsessions

For each writer there’s a different answer to the question: Where do you get your characters?   I read this note in Time magazine from the fine author Meg Wolitzer and thought it was an excellent take on how the process occurs.

“My best, though incredibly vague, answer is that ideas about characters come about through the long, slow process of living.  Even if a character’s experiences aren’t your own, you are citizens of the same world, and you’ve had your experiences and witnessed other people’s too.  While all that has been going on, empathy has quietly been forming; it’s a chemical process.”

It’s probably safe to say that Wolitzer’s life has been permeated by writing.  The author of a dozen novels, including The Wife and The Ten-Year Nap, she grew up the daughter of a novelist (Hilma Wolitzer) and married another novelist (Richard Panek).  And the legacy is continuing.  Both of her sons also have had their writing published.  

“People say, write what you know, but it's really, write about what obsesses you,” Wolitzer said.   “Write about what you're thinking about all the time.”

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