I attended a Herman's Hermits concert this evening. They were my all-time favorite band in the 60s, but I never got to see them in person. Now that I have, I think I begin to understand why young teen girls screamed and fainted during such events, though no one did that tonight.
I feel it's important for me to not only analyze those feelings, but to carefully file them away. How can I adequately describe them otherwise?
I might need to describe that exact emotion in one of my characters some day. Before tonight, I wouldn't have attempted it. My imagination isn't that good. If I had a character in a concert audience, she probably would have found it noisy and bewildering. Her friends might scream and jump up and down, but my character wouldn't understand their excitement, even though she might try to fit in by screaming and jumping also. I had never experienced the kind of emotion that those other teens felt. I only have a glimmer of what made those other girls scream, jump and faint, but at least now I have a glimmer.
When I was very young, people confused me; I had no idea what went on in their minds. Eventually, I discovered that people had the same set of emotions that I had, and that gave me a starting place. At some point, I realized that other people's emotions were not necessarily triggered by the same things that triggered mine. Kind of mind-boggling, but I worked to get my head wrapped around it.
Now I see people - and characters - as a jigsaw puzzle. They have the same emotions (pieces), but each emotion/piece is a different shape, different size, and goes in a different place. If you don't figure out how to make the pieces fit together in different ways, all your characters come out the same. In other words, you have to peek inside your characters' minds and make sure there isn't just a mirror in there.
I'd like to go to another concert. It was thrilling, exciting and made me happy. Maybe I will write about a star-struck young girl. But I think I'll skip writing about psychopathic killers. Or at least, I won't be doing research to figure out what goes on in their minds.