E is for Empathy

Artwork by Tom Torre (@CopernicusNerd)
Artwork by Tom Torre (@CopernicusNerd)

“Empathy: The imaginative projection into another’s feelings, a state of total identification with another’s situation, condition, and thoughts. The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without explicitly articulating these feelings.”


We’re going to be very specific today; our topic of empathy will be applied to children’s literature.

A common observation with many new children’s book ideas, especially with new writers, is the need to share an emotional connection with a book’s characters. The prime reason being the book’s intended audience.

Today’s children and teens live in a world of constant distraction. From smart phones, to gaming, to television, to schedules after school that would make even an adult cringe, reading should be an activity that they equally demand time for. In order to keep this level of engagement, the books provided need to be equally appealing. Children should want to “vicariously experience” the lives of the characters in their books.

Why does empathy seem to fall by the wayside? Oftentimes, some authors fall into a trap of keeping their adult voices intact vs. looking at the larger picture. The end result is a story with an adult voice embodied in the form of a young character, thereby removing a narrative that any child or teen would prefer to read (and enjoy). To avoid this situation, step outside your comfort zone when writing and consider new points of view, new experiences.

Being emphatic will allow any writer a chance to experience someone else’s story. Young readers will appreciate it, your book will too.

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