A paradigm shift is a change from one way of thinking to a different way. It’s a transformation. This is not something that “just happens.” A paradigm shift is driven by some active agent.
I can imagine you asking, what does this have to do with writing? Let me first give an example of a paradigm shift and afterward, I’ll get back to you and writing.
The printing press. Yes, the invention of the printing press and what happened because of this was a rather large paradigm shift, not only in terms of access to information, thoughts, beliefs, etc., but to language, peoples, cultures, spanning the entire world. Some say that this invention led to the scientific revolution, and thus, to the world in which we now find ourselves.
With the invention of movable type in the 1440s by Gutenberg, books became available, smaller, and cheaper to buy. Attitudes changed through time as more and more people had access to books. In this paradigm shift, the active agent of change was the printing press.
So what’s the active agent of change in writing? The answer is simple: YOU!
In creating a new world each time you begin a story, developing new characters, inventing plots, motivations, and conflicts, you have the opportunity to step outside of your world view of life to create something unique. Your story world and characters don’t have to be a reflection of your own way of thinking or believing. They could be, but that’s only a starting point. If all your characters were a reflection of you, you are limiting yourself (and your cast of characters).
Allow yourself to step outside of that with which you are comfortable. Step into your new world and experience it as your protagonist, as your antagonist. What are their beliefs? Their experiences? Their motivations?
Once you are able to do this, to make the paradigm shift from yourself to the universe outside of yourself, to feel, taste, hear, see this new world through new eyes, you will indeed create a world, characters, and story that others will WANT to read.
Writing through the eyes of your hero or heroine, keep in mind his or her motivations. When you write through the heart of your antagonist or villain, listen to her or his voice, to the past that brought this character to the present.
When I’m writing about an angry teenager, I feel things way beyond my own quiet experience as a teen. When I write of an elderly, terminally ill man, who welcomes death, I give up my middle age wanting to live life the fullest as I look toward many years to come. When I am a woman giving birth to her first child, I must go beyond my experience of having no children.
When you shift from yourself to the life, heart, and soul of your character, you can write his or her story. That world will come alive, for you and for your readers. Writing is an exercise in transformation, and you, the writer, are the agent of change in the paradigm shift of writing.
Question for today: What are your experience(s) in getting into the head, heart, and soul (spirit) of your characters? Your story world?