Monday, January 9, 2012

Viewpoint: Did You See What I Saw?

Did You See What I Saw?
by Jacquie Rogers
Copyright © 2012 Jacquie Rogers

That’s point of view.

We know what we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch, but we can never be sure how someone else senses those same stimuli, if they noticed at all.

Let’s say you’re thirty years old and you see an eighty-year-old arthritic woman take a full minute to get out of her chair. You can be compassionate and sympathetic, but until you’re eighty and have arthritis, you have no idea what her pain is like, or how it feels for her to stand. She can tell you, and you might be able to relate, at least somewhat, based on your own experience.

That’s point of view.

On the other hand, you can bet the lady can remember jumping up and running after her young children. She has fond memories and would be delighted to relate them to anyone who will listen, but you have lots of things to do so you feel a tinge of annoyance at being interrupted.

That’s point of view.

You and your best friend walk into a candy store. They’ve just put out fresh orange sticks. Your mouth waters at the aroma of candied orange and chocolate—oh, the chocolate! and you can’t wait to taste the free sample that the clerk is using to entice you. But your friend runs out of the store with her hand over her mouth. Come to find out, she had binged on a box of orange sticks just before her first bout with morning sickness during her pregnancy. The very smell sickened her.

That’s point of view.

Our characters react differently to stimuli based on their own unique experiences. Exploring those experiences are what gives our stories depth and makes our characters multi-dimensional. That’s why it’s so important to not just write a character, but to be that character—to smell what he smells and experience the feelings that the smell would trigger; to see what he sees and react how he would react.

This goes farther than point of view—it also takes you into the strength of your character’s voice. Now he acts, thinks, and sounds differently than any other character in your book because if his unique perspective on each stimulus thrown his way.

 And that’s the beauty of it. If you know your characters well, then you also know what obstacles to throw in their way to prove your story theme.

But that’s a topic for another day.
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