When I took my first horse riding lesson, the teacher told me before I got on the horse, “She’s just as scared as you are.” Thing is, I wasn’t scared at all. And once I was taking lessons regularly, I was told that I picked it up quickly.
Now, I don’t think these things are because I’m an innately courageous and physically adept person. I’m not. But what I am is a reader. I had read roughly a bajillion books where the characters were riding horses. I had kind of absorbed what to do, and it wasn’t hard to translate it into real life.
Sometimes I think about how many experiences I haven’t actually had. Sometimes things will happen and I think, “Oh. That’s the first time I have done this myself. I guess all the other times were just reading about it. Whoa. Weird.” Usually they turn out to feel pretty much the way I assumed they would.
While this is a bit disconcerting at times, it’s a useful tool for writing stories. There’s no way I could personally experience everything the characters I write do. If they only ever did things I’ve done, it would result in pretty boring stories.
Strangely enough, it’s the little things that I haven’t experienced that trip me up. I write about time travel regularly, but once I went to Starbucks because I was going to write about characters meeting there and I’d never been there and I felt like I should try it first. Never having kissed a guy doesn’t stop me from writing kissing scenes, but recently I was complaining to a friend that I’ve never held hands with someone in a romantic way and I don’t know how it feels so I was having trouble writing it.
It’s also useful for understanding and relating to people in real life. With all that practice expanding my horizons through fictional characters, I’ve learned how to do it through real people, too.
I’m not sure I have a point; hence, I’m not sure how to wrap this up. So have a quote:
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R. R. Martin