Writers must decide two important elements when preparing to draft a piece of
journalism, a short story, a novel, or even poetry. Point of view will determine
who tells the story—some degree of an all knowing, distant third person, or a more
closely focused and personal first person. Perspective is how this narrator and the
other characters view and process what’s happening within the story.
Depending on how many people populate the work, the author may need to
consider numerous perspectives. If every character thought the same way, it would
make for a pretty boring read. And even in the same situation or setting, there
might be multiple truths of what is happening depending on back stories, sensory
perceptions, or emotional conditions.
As writers we train ourselves to be careful observers of life by watching for
gestures, listening for accents and phrasing in speech, and figuring out how to
show and not just tell how someone feels. As our protagonists and antagonists
come to life, we begin to understand how they think, what motivates them, how
they will react in the situations in which we place them. They become fully fleshed
out personalities. Some may be our alter egos who fulfill our hidden desires.
Some we’d like for friends; others we may despise. But the ultimate goal is to
have the reader develop a connection with them—whether good or bad.
One of my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult, is a master at bringing different
viewpoints into her novels. From reading her author notes and hearing her speak, I
know that she views the world with a fairly liberal, feminist slant. Yet she has
written works whose characters are white supremacists, anti-abortionists, and
former Nazi guards. She moves past her own beliefs, experiences, and comfort
zones and digs deep via research, readings, and interviews to immerse her readers
in the hearts and minds of people often far removed from their day to day
Perhaps we should take a page from her books and her process, and use that in our
own lives. We are a country divided into dichotomies—reds vs. blues, left vs.
right, urban vs. rural, rich vs. poor, etc. But when was the last time you sat down
with someone who holds views opposite of your own and had a discussion—and
not a shouting match—about the state of the world? We blast our legislators who
seem unable to reach across the aisle yet we rarely reach across the kitchen table.
So the next time you’re face to face with Uncle Bob and his rants and conspiracy
theories, try reframing the conversation as if researching a book. Don’t worry
about defending your position. Don’t feel the need to agree with his. You might
just create a quirky character, or maybe you’ll end up removing another brick from
the wall between the two of you. And that’s a good thing from any perspective.
Diana is a Baby Boomer, diehard Beatles fan, and now an Author on Amazon.