I would like to pose a question if I may. How can your characters be fully realized 3 dimensional beings if you their creator do not have any life experiences?
Now, I am not saying that you cannot create compelling characters if you have not trekked through Nepal or sailed the Pacific ocean on a raft. It is my opinion that in order to give your characters depth and reality you must breathe life into them. Specifically your life. Rather, your life experiences since anyone and anything you come into contact or do with forms an experience that can be applied to your writing.
In high school I took a photography class. The teacher made us listen to Suzanne Vega’s song: Tom’s Diner. It was a demonstration of observation. How the narrator of the song (ultimately Suzanne) studied fellow customers and staff at a diner. And in the classic 1964 children’s book: Harriet the Spy, Harriet engages in a game where people in the diner/library/etc. are given new identities and backgrounds based on their appearance and actions.
What’s the point of that last paragraph? Observation leading to creation. First we observe something (people in a diner perhaps or a messy break up or any little thing), then we create out of it (BAM! Now we’re writing!)
In order to give my characters some heft I tend to gather personalities, habits, physical attributes and write them down in a notebook or (hopefully) retain them in my mind. I also try to interact with people and be open to new experiences, to learn. I think that if you close yourself off from learning and experiencing. I offer the following two quotes from Mark Twain:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
“…nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people.”
I feel that these quotes demonstrate a belief in going out into the world, learning and experiencing in an effort to become a broad-minded person, a person with a life lived building those experiences.
And when I or you turn my/your hand to writing (or really any other kind of artistic endeavor) a richness unfolds. Depth becomes tangible. I think that is what we want to do: Create a work that is as living and breathing as the real world that surrounds us. In order to do that, we must engage in life.
What do you think? Am I way off base here?
Thanks for reading!