The Secret Ingredient for Writing Better Characters
I love to be other people. It’s not like I don’t like my own life, but it feels great to step out of it every so often and pretend to be someone else. I like to sit on a bench and put myself in the shoes of the window washer or the prim executive in the Chanel suit sneaking a cigarette. I make up stories about what she’s thinking and what made her feel the need to bear the cold for the sweet fix of nicotine.
Fiction writers are no stranger to fitting inside their characters, but I was always more of a personal essay kind of girl. And then I enrolled to get my Masters Degree in Psychology. We’d break off into trios and take up specific roles: therapist, client, and observer. In manning all three positions, I learned rather quickly the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is feeling bad for another person, which sometimes comes out in the form of pity. Nobody really likes to be pitied. But empathy— that was the winner! In the therapist position, I noticed how empowering it was to imagine I was the client. I was able to really feel what it must be like to go through a tough divorce or have a horrible accident or hate my boss (not too much of a stretch on the last one). I also realized how much better people felt when I truly understood them and felt what they were feeling. It was a rush!
I fell in love with empathy and began employing it at all times. My relationships improved. I stopped judging so many people. I got in less arguments. I began taking things less personally. I asked more questions. And my writing! My writing got so much better and my characters so much richer.
When it came time to write the story of motherhood for You Made Me a Mother, I needed to do some research before diving into a mother’s shoes. I interviewed my mom and all the moms in my family, asking them what it was like to bring a new little baby into their lives. Their sweet responses got me all teary, so I sat down, closed my eyes, and wrote a poem using as much empathy as I could muster. I basically made myself a mother! And it worked! You Made Me a Mother is a culmination of my empathy, my mom, my aunt, my cousins, my friends, and my whole clan of powerful mommas. And then Robin Preiss-Glasser, now my favorite new friend, brought her own motherhood to the table, drawing her knowledge and love onto the pages (Plus, she added a dog!).
The text for You Made Me a Mother was first used in a video for Boba baby carriers, and it went viral on Facebook because, as Huffington Post said, it “put the emotion of motherhood into words.” I tell ya— empathy works (and it gets you in less arguments too)!
I loved so much to pretend I was a mother that I am now on the quest to become one myself! I’ll be getting married in September, and perhaps my newfound roleplaying success will help me conceive a child! Either way, I have birthed a book that represents women all over thanks to all those who lent me their stories, their motherhood, and their true selves. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I loved writing it.
About Laurenne Sala
Laurenne Sala began her career as an advertising copywriter, writing national campaigns for clients like KIA Motors, Jack-in-the-Box, and Beats by Dre. She has written everything from the copy on a VitaminWater bottle to funny videos for BuzzFeed. After hiding lots of family drama during her teens and twenties, she finally told all her secrets on stage and in writing, which helped her feel such catharsis that she started her own storytelling show, Taboo Tales. She leads writing workshops and speaks at colleges around the country in order to help others create comedy pieces out of their authentic stories and give them the opportunity to release them on stage in front of a live audience. Laurenne’s first foray into children’s books is You Made Me a Mother, with You Made Me a Father coming shortly after. She’s fallen in love with the kid lit community, and she hopes there’ll be many more picture books to follow. Find out more at laurennesalabooks.com
Written by Laurenne Sala
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
From the back cover: In this beautiful celebration of motherhood, the universal message of unconditional love for a child shines through. Laurenne Sala’s heartwarming text, accompanied by New York Times bestselling artist Robin Preiss Glasser’s charming illustrations, creates a firsthand look at the powerful bond between mother and child from pregnancy to birth and beyond.
I felt you.
You were a pea.
Then a lemon.
Then an eggplant.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: HarperCollins | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0062358868
Mother’s Day will be here before you know it! Celebrate by entering to win a copy of You Made Me a Mother, written by Laurenne Sala and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.
Five (5) winners receive:
- A copy of You Made Me a Mother
Age Range: 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Giveaway begins March 8, 2016, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 8, 2016, at 11:59 P.M. PST.
Discover more writing tips and books like You Made Me a Mother, by Laurenne Sala and Robin Preiss Glasser, by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with Character Development, Mommy Books, Mothers, Robin Preiss Glasser, and Writing Tips.