Writing is many things, but maybe more than anything else it comes down to recording — and transmitting — the experience of seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. That’s the essence of “show don’t tell.” And it’s the essence of voice in your fiction.
Kent reflected on this, and on our process and all the different sets of eyes he’s looked out through, and formed the opinion that the act of writing has increased his capacity for empathy. For context, his workplace nicknames have included Spock, Data, and more recently, Sheldon. (His high-school nicknames were less flattering.)
He’s convinced that empathy has become easier for him, sometimes involuntary, and he blames it on the writing. It’s also possible that it’s just a symptom of getting older, or a side effect of spending so much time with someone as compassionate as Jen.
Writing is many things, but most of all it’s projecting yourself into another being. The reader has a keen nose for puppet strings, so the writer must cut them without the character falling limp. You can get away with a little pretending, a little imitating, but it won’t carry you far. To win the reader’s trust, your writing must contain the characters’ honest fears and hungers.
It ends up giving a writer lots of practice standing in others’ shoes. And if you’ve never had a nickname based on an inhuman creature devoid of emotion, you probably have a good head start!