Empathy: your story’s best friend and matchmaker for your audience.


You can find this article in its entirety HERE.


“COGNITIVE SECRET: Emotion determines the meaning of everything— if we’re not feeling, we’re not conscious.

STORY SECRET: All story is emotion based— if we’re not feeling, we’re not reading.”

–Cron, Lisa (2012-07-10). Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence (Kindle Locations 36-37). Ten Speed Press. Kindle Edition.


Getting a read on Judy Barton (Kim Novak), cloaked by “supernatural” green light in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. After being solicited for a date by Scottie who notes she reminds him of someone (dead), Judy replies “Why, because I remind you of her? That’s not very complimentary. And nothing else?”

In the last article, I briefly mentioned the concept of mirroring which has been a hot topic in neuroscience for the last two decades.  The much debated notion is neurons fire both when an animal acts and when another observes the same action performed, providing the neural basis of the capacity for emotions such as empathy.  Empathy, in turn, is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being.

Empathy, however, is not sympathy.  If you’re not sure of the difference, please take a moment to watch this wonderfully articulated short video taken from research professor Dr. Brené Brown:


Sympathy, simply put, is indicative of the old saying “I feel for you, but I can’t quite reach you.”  It disconnects whereas empathy draws us in and makes us feel what characters are feeling.  Knowing how to utilize empathy effectively, as we will see later on, can distance us from the a character and actually draw us closer and align our emotions to an accomplice to murder instead.

Before delving further into empathy itself, it’s important to note that there are seven universal basic emotions:

We’ve found a new home!  You can read the rest of this article as well as others HERE.  


About Jim Barker

A multi-award winning sculptor who uses a pen to shape words on a page that leave impressions in the mind.
Image | This entry was posted in Empathy, Perspective, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Empathy: your story’s best friend and matchmaker for your audience.

  1. MikeWest says:

    Great article, Jim.

    Please keep them coming.


  2. Great article. The empathy thing is, I believe, a most significant element for any writer to consider. For anyone alive to consider really…


  3. Pingback: Show, don’t tell and its relationship to empathy in screenwriting. | The Bark Bites Back

  4. Pingback: Scene analysis: The Woodsman – empathy done right. | The Bark Bites Back

  5. Pingback: Machiavellianism and The Usual Suspects. | The Bark Bites Back

  6. Pingback: A Look Inside the storytelling of Pixar’s Inside Out. | The Bark Bites Back

  7. schillingklaus says:

    I show no empathy in life, and I boycott rigorously all fiction relying on it; consequently, I will not be deterred by any of your propaganda from telling shamelessly instead of showing.


  8. Pingback: A Look Inside the storytelling of Pixar's Inside Out.

  9. Pingback: Empathy: What 'Show, Don't Tell' Really Means In Storytelling

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