Never mind writing characters who are a different gender, race, ethnicity, what have you. Sometimes the big struggle is writing a character who isn’t that far removed from you, but who has done something you’ve never even considered.
Not murder–I’ve given that some serious thought over the years. I even have a couple of back-up plans in case I need them. *shifty eyes*
Infidelity. I’ve never cheated on anyone. Sure, there were a few relationships that came to an abrupt end after I’d met Mr. Improvement Over Current Boyfriend, but I’ve always had an official break up before I moved on.
I’ve gotten far enough into my character to understand why she cheats on her fiancé. (Beyond that familiar trope about “Women cheat because they’re lonely, men cheat because they can.”) What I have to do next is creep further into her and figure out what she does next. Now, as a happily married woman I sit around pretending that I’ve cheated on my husband so that I can analyze my current behavior and extrapolate from there how my behavior would change if I had cheated on him. Hours spent thinking, “What would I be doing/thinking/feeling right now, if I’d just cheated on my husband?”
Thus far it’s been interesting, not just from a writer’s standpoint, but also for making me look at why I do some of the things I do. Sure, it feels weird, but it’s preferable to the alternative a friend suggested: “Cheating is fun. You should try it.” I had to remind her it’s not the writer’s job to live it. It’s our job to imagine it.
What about you, my fellow writers–where are you stepping outside your comfort zone?