A Matter of Perspective

Although you wouldn’t know it from the photos I’ve used on my blog, I love sunrise/sunset photos. (And, my apologies to all my former chorus/choir readers who are now humming a Bock & Harnick tune.)

I love the different colors of reds, oranges, blues, and purples a good photo can capture. I grew up in the Sonoran Desert, and sunrises/sunsets were always filled with dramatic colors that seemed to outdo any previous rising or setting I witnessed. (The ones paired with a summer monsoon were particularly breath-taking.)

I love how, if the photo is taken from just the right angle and without any clear indications of cardinal directions, a sunset could be mistaken for a sunrise and vice versa.

The reason I love that so much is that it’s a great mind game to play as a writer. And, it’s even a decent metaphor for life.

As writers, we are often reminded that “No one is a villain in their own story” or “No one imagines themself the bad guy in an encounter.” 

That, of course, makes for damned hard writing. How does a writer actually create a villain that isn’t a caricature like Snidely Whiplash or a psychopath like Ted Bundy? And, once you have, how do you keep that character’s motivations plausible but still reprehensible when seen from the protagonist’s point of view?

I don’t necessarily have an answer for that because it’s a writing skill I’m always trying to improve. But, I do know that when I get stumped with a project, spending a little time seeing the current story events from the perspective of one of the other characters can be helpful.

It doesn’t always have to be from the villain’s point of view. Sometimes, taking secondary or even tertiary character’s POV for a writing exercise can be helpful.

It can also be helpful to pick the perspective from some character that doesn’t even exist in the story but who might be able to witness a part of the events I’m trying to write. Maybe I have my characters traveling by car, and they stop to gas up. What might other drivers doing the same thing notice about them?

Or,  what would the waitperson think of their orders if they stopped for a meal? Would they be bickering over how the check is divided or how much each can spend? Would that make the server’s day harder? If so, what else is that person grappling with?

These kinds of thought exercises aren’t only applicable to writing. They can be helpful for a wide range of artistic and creative work. They’re also useful in life. When someone reacts in a way that seems out of proportion to whatever annoyance just occurred, it can be helpful to try to think about reasons why that person had that reaction. 

Instead of meeting rudeness with more rudeness, try to remember a time when your own life stuff had you feeling like one more thing would be one too many. Might the person who just cussed you out be facing a similar crisis? If so, would you have appreciated some kindness at that moment? And, can you offer that to someone else?

These kinds of questions will often help me figure out that I haven’t developed my characters as thoroughly as I had intended. Sometimes, viewing their actions from another character’s POV will help me realize that I need to do more work to make their decisions make sense, even if the other characters and/or readers don’t see those reasons.

Image Credit: Photo by Sofía Roblero on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “A Matter of Perspective

  1. Hi Cuz, Enjoyed your blog as always. I find your insights into writing fascinating. Sorry to ask this here but are you back on Facebook? I got a friend request and I wanted to make sure it was you before I accepted it.

    Liked by 1 person

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