Shifting Your Viewpoint

March 26, 2008 at 12:16 am | Posted in Tool Box | Leave a comment
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I have two teenage daughters and I find myself playing referee whenever there is an argument. No matter what the dispute, I hear two sides of the same story and they’re usually wildly different. 

 

“She took my CD.”

“No I didn’t, she let me borrow it.”

 “And now it’s scratched.”

“I never even took it out of the case.”

“She owes me a new one.”

“No I don’t because you’re lying.”

“You’re the liar.”

 

I use my mighty mom senses to discern the truth, finding it somewhere in the middle.

Every situation has many truths, each told from a different viewpoint.  Shifting your perspective can shed a whole new light onto a situation. The same is true with your story.  Most stories are told from the point of view of the main character, the protagonist who moves the action along.  That’s perfectly acceptable, but don’t choose it without considering your options.

 

The Sidekick – Dear Dr. Watson comes to mind: the sidekick who chronicled the amazing powers of observation demonstrated by Sherlock Holmes.  Sherlock wouldn’t be nearly as engaging if he bragged about his great detecting to anyone willing to listen.  Instead, Sherlock enthralled us, but never acknowledged he had an audience, other than Dr Watson that is.

 

The Antagonist – Hey everyone needs a little love. Why not turn a story on its head and tell it from the opposing point of view.  Wicked:  The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire is a brilliant example.  It is the story of Oz, told from the Wicked Witch’s perspective. Bad guys are usually more fun to write because they are bold, outrageous and a bit demented. Telling the story from this viewpoint would be a challenge, but it would be considered bold, outrageous and perhaps, a bit demented too. 

 

The Pet – Tell the story from an animal’s perspective and you’ve got a whole new view of the world.  You book doesn’t need to include singing chipmunks or dancing hippos to incorporate an animal’s point of view.  Trixie Koontz (Dean’s beloved Golden Retriever) gave us Life is Good; Lessons in Joyful Living and George Orwell offered a darker version in Animal Farm.

 

Just remember that every perspective is a valid one. The story will change according to who is telling it.  If you haven’t considered using an alternative perspective, write a scene to see how it plays out. You might just find a better view.    

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