“...we care about what we know and might possibly lose, dislike that which threatens what we care about, and feel indifferent toward that which has no visible bearing on our safety or the safety of what we love.” -- John Gardner in The Art of Fiction.My best writing occurs when I like or dislike what's happening in a scene. There are times, however, when the characters lead me to an idea about which I’m indifferent. This is when writing becomes hard, and I find myself forced into a decision. Do I change the subject, or do I work harder at understanding why the topic is important to a character?
As I wrote the above, I was reminded of a college classmate who offered to help me quit smoking. I asked him if he understood why I smoked. He said no. I then asked what made him think he could help me quit a habit he didn’t understand. He didn’t have an answer and never offered again, but thinking about this reinforced the idea in my mind as to why I need to commiserate more with my characters and their problems. BTW, I did eventually quit on my own.