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Writing Wisdom from Elif Shafak: love precedes knowledge : 0% read

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Writing Wisdom from Elif Shafak: love precedes knowledge


Remember, one can only know what one is capable of loving. There is no wisdom without love.

Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love, P110

My husband once said of his pupils that he loves them all, just a little bit. By that, he means that there are some pupils he loves a great deal, those who are easy to love, those who resonate with his character and his tastes, those who appreciate what he does for him. But he loves the others too, even if it’s just a little bit. It’s what helps him understand them. It’s what makes him a brilliant teacher.

I feel the same about my characters. There are some characters who win my heart from the moment they’re born. Milo feels like my own child. I celebrate his birthday. I whoop at his achievements, I think of what he might be doing now, beyond the pages of What Milo Saw.

Other characters are harder to love – but I know that I have to find a love for them if I’m going to understand them and so write them well. Nurse Thornhill in What Milo Saw could be seen as something of a pantomime villain. She is hard to love. But I worked to understand her, to think about how she’d got to a place where she couldn’t treat the wonderful old people of Forget Me Not with the love they deserved. That understanding helped me to make a richer, truer character for my readers.

Learning to love my disparate characters has a more profound purpose too: it helps me to love and understand the people I share this world with: it deepens my empathy for those who are different from me.

So, as you work on your story today, fall in love with your character, ever one of them, and see how that love leads you to write them better.