The best thing in my life is the people. Including you. I love people, I'm fascinated by people. I studied social psychology for my first degree because I find people so interesting. I adore my job as a researcher because I speak to all sorts of people I'd never otherwise meet, and ask them all sorts of questions that I wouldn't be able to ask in everyday life.
Of course I don't love every individual person. I'm generally well disposed towards my fellow human, but I'm also perfectly capable of anger, resentment, hatred etc etc. Some people I dislike; others I distrust. But of all the people I've ever met, I've liked the vast majority - at least in some respects - and many of them I've loved.
This is also the best thing about writing. When I write a story it usually starts with an idea or a prompt. That generates a chain of 'what ifs'. For example, I was recently playing with ideas for a story on the theme of 'conflict', set for a writing competition. My first association with conflict was war zones, but I decided I couldn't write a story set in one because I don't have enough experience and the research would take too long. Then I thought of a married couple arguing, but that seemed too boring. My next thought was of the conflict between teenagers and parents. That started to spark ideas. I remembered stories from friends with teenage children, thought of my own teenage experiences, remembered how it felt when I worked with teenagers.
These ideas were interesting and useful but still quite abstract. They needed populating. So I began to build some characters in my head. The thought process went something like this: a mum, a single mum, yes, that would make her life more difficult. Not a bad mum, but not brilliant; loving, insecure, hard-working, a bit inconsistent. Two children, a girl of 16 and a boy of 14. Both kicking against the restrictions she tries to impose. Bullying her. Yes, that would work. They could tell her she's a crap parent. Maybe one of them bunks off school, she says they're grounded, the youngster goes out anyway. The girl, probably. Pushes past her to get to the door, bruises her in the process. The boy, he tells lies, is careless, has a skanky bedroom. Perhaps the girl could have a horrible boyfriend, charming in person but he's done something criminal, mugging maybe, he's due in court, will probably get a custodial sentence. Ooh, perhaps the dad could be in prison too, for something really vile, I know, he killed their younger sibling when it was a baby because it wouldn't stop crying. Mum has been trying to cope with her grief and make it up to the other two ever since.
I love this bit, because it's about the people. The hours I spend playing with imaginary people in my head are so enjoyable. It's hard to convey the pleasure it gives, although I think other fiction writers may understand. A non-writer friend recently asked me to explain it, and I did my best to demonstrate how much fun it is to invent people and then make them have a really bad time, torture them, ensure they really suffer. I was in full flow when I caught sight of her face, open-mouthed in shock. She has always known me as a reasonably kind-hearted person and I think it was a bit of a revelation. Plus she's a trained counsellor, so she has her own ways of making stories about people.
In real life I don't want anyone to suffer. One of the colossal flaws in my early writing was that everyone always got on well and had a lovely time, and as a result, although well written, my stories were very boring to read. With a little help from a good friend, I've been able to get over that, at least to some extent. But how far can I go? I don't think I'll ever want to write like, say, Stephen King, who is a master of the bad time/torture/suffering aspect of writing. I don't enjoy reading suspense/horror so it seems unlikely that I'd enjoy writing it. I do, though, think I could take this aspect of my writing further. And writing stories on the theme of 'conflict' seems like a good way to explore.