Achieving this goal is no easy task. Topics like segregation, the Holocaust, and civil liberties require diligent planning and preparation. If students walk away understanding these events, the teacher has done a satisfactory job. If students leave empathising with those affected, the teacher has executed an exceptional lesson.
Empathy plays a vital role in my approach to writing young adult fiction. In his article titled The Value of Young Adult Literature, Michael Cart states the following:
Another value of young adult literature is its capacity for fostering understanding, empathy, and compassion by offering vividly realized portraits of the lives – exterior and interior – of individuals who are [unlike the] reader. In this way young adult literature invites its readership to embrace the humanity it shares with those who – if not for the encounter in reading – might forever remain strangers or – worse — irredeemably “other.”
To me, empathy is an essential characteristic of good writing. It is not enough to provide an engaging story with teachable moments; the writer's role is deeper. Readers must feel the protagonist's experiences. They must be provided with the means to tap into his brain - to share his soul and see the world through his eyes. If a reader completes a novel empathising with a character, the writer has created an exceptional story.
Is empathy an essential characteristic of good writing? Does it play a role in your current project(s)?