Sunday, October 7, 2012


 A sound bit of advice resides in the adage advising us to withhold judgment on a person until we have walked a mile in that person’s moccasins.

If there were to be some award given for making such judgments with no attempt at greater understanding, you’d have a shelf of trophies, your justification being your experience in various landscapes where behavior has run from the mere egotistical to the greedy, the needy, and the desperate.  You find it helpful to have the attitude of acceptance about this tendency of yours, otherwise you’d have to find ways of coming to terms with it and learning to live with it.

Worse yet, you’d have to put brakes on your impatience and quickness to judge, which is another way of saying you’d have to repress long held tendencies, producing the equivalent anomaly of a passive-aggressive Buddhist

On balance, the notion of the metaphorical walk in another person’s shoes—living his or her circumstances—is not only not a bad idea, it is a profitable one.  You use it nearly every time you  compose fiction or nonfiction.

What better way to create a character than the exhilarating journey of travel within that individual’s psyche, knowing what he or she wants, how the character anticipates achieving the goal? Wondering all the while how the character feels about his or her core being.

For works of nonfiction, even reviews or personal essays, there is the need to think about who the narrator is.  The narrator is you, of course, but which you, the moderate, the bombast, the political you? Which effect are you after in producing the material?  How do you intend the material to be seen?

An essay or review—even one of those small, compact jobs of a hundred words or so,  should in some way leave a fingerprint of the narrator, thus even those words are in moccasins, however tight and pinching at the instep.

There are, to be sure, a number of individuals you see in the warp and weft of your life who bring you no joy or even chemistry, thus they become excellent armatures about which to wrap certain character traits that might become interesting and useful.

Going to work on such individuals as characters, you have to reach a point of liking them enough to feel some admiration for the bad behavior you are about to involve them in.  When you see these persons in real life, your attitude toward them has undergone subtle change.  Having liked him or her as characters, you approach them as though you like them, and the whole process of getting no joy or chemistry from them begins once again.

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