The writer’s degree of acting ability is in direct proportion to her/his ability to compose a successful narrative. In a letter to his brothers, Keats once described the poet as a person being “the most unpoetical of anything in existence, because he has no identity, he is continually filling some other body.”
I believe Keats definition of the poet, which comes out of his discussion of what he termed Negative Capability, describes most writers quite well. The successful writer of prose immerses himself, as it were, in his characters. He becomes that person. He thinks like that person.. He talks like that person. He moves like that person, and he does all of this in his imagined world.
I think while writing, many writers find themselves narrowing their eyes, clenching their teeth, doubling their fists, mumbling, laughing, crying.Thus the writer is a supremely empathic creature who comes to understand and share the emotions of his characters: good and bad. She/he loses himself in order to experience the “self” of the other, the imagined character.
The author is an actor who assumes a role and convinces someone else, the reader in this case, that the role is real and believable. As the author writes, she/he must feel the joy or pain the character feels. How else can that emotion be truly conveyed? Once in the body of the villain, the author must see through that person’s eyes, think through that twisted mind, perform terrible acts with horrifying accuracy.
What makes the activity of empathic writing even more interesting is the author must shift from one persona to another without hesitation, hold one set of emotions in abeyance while assuming another, on and on. It’s a circus. But what a wonderful show it can be.