A Masterclass in Empathy

By Devyanshi Chakraborty, Grade 10

In a masterclass led by Neev Book Award winning author Nandita da Cunha, we embarked on a journey into the heart of storytelling through the lens of empathy. This transformative session opened our minds to the power of understanding and harnessing empathy as a vital component in the writer’s toolkit.

The masterclass began by dissecting the concept of empathy. It’s not just the act of putting yourself in your character’s shoes; it’s about exploring problems and scenarios from various points of view. This extensive understanding enables authors to develop real characters and stories that connect intimately with audiences.

Nandita da Cunha made it abundantly clear: empathy is the heartbeat of storytelling. But why is it so crucial? Empathy enables us to infuse our stories with diverse perspectives. “People are never black or white, they’re gray,” as Nandita remarked. With empathy, we can paint the full spectrum of human experiences. Every character in a story has a reason for their actions. Empathy helps writers uncover the truth behind these motivations, enabling the creation of multi-dimensional characters. A story’s power lies in its ability to evoke emotions in the reader. Empathy is the key to making readers feel for the characters, sharing in their real-life challenges, and their complex emotional journeys. Nandita da Cunha encouraged us to start our stories with emotion. It’s through emotion that readers connect with the characters, forging a bond right from the opening lines.

A scene from Nandita’s masterclass

The masterclass also unveiled a treasure trove of storytelling techniques that can be significantly enhanced through empathy – imagery, metaphors and analogies, humor, dialogues, monologues. Empathy allows writers to create powerful imagery and symbolism that can convey emotions and ideas subtly and effectively. By delving deep into the character’s emotional landscape, writers can craft vivid descriptions that transport readers into the character’s world. 

A fascinating aspect of the masterclass was the character’s autonomy, the concept of letting your character write itself. This idea revolves around understanding your characters so deeply that their decisions and choices become organic extensions of their personalities. It’s about relinquishing control and letting your characters guide the narrative, ultimately writing characters that feel alive and authentic.

The masterclass with Nandita da Cunha was a revelation, highlighting the significance of empathy in writing. It’s more than just a writing technique; it’s a window into the diverse and intricate world of human emotions and experiences. It’s a tool we writers should cherish and wield with great care, for it has the power to breathe life into our narratives and connect us to the hearts of our readers.



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