Tag Archives: perspective

A Practice in Perspective

I love looking at things from different points of view, which is probably why my students have multiple exercises each year dealing with point of view and perspective. I fully believe that putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can often help solve even the most complex of problems.

Not that it always works–otherwise I’d have found the solution for how to achieve world peace–but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

One of my college writing classes had us do something with perspective that I’ve been playing with a little this week, mostly because I can. We wrote a story from one point of view with at least two characters and then we switched the point of view around so that we could explore characterization in depth. This was my original piece told from Veruna’s perspective:

“The exact moment that the fall of mankind’s dominance occurred remains a mystery to the modern world. The inconceivable phenomenon evolved slowly so that the change became almost natural and nigh undetectable as it slithered its way into existence. One fact and one fact alone remains clear: change has happened. Denial is still prevalent among the vast majority of the fallen race, but I, brilliant mastermind that I am, have artfully recorded my observations and submitted to the inevitable, knowing full well that our days of power have come to an end.

 

The deviant forms have come to every neighborhood and city, commanding our utmost attention and care. We have no choice but to submit to their demands and live as comfortably as possible within our cloistered confines.

 

My theory and definitive conclusion was born out of experience and experience’s name is Jennis.

 

For years I determined to study The Change as an observant outsider. My goal was to remain detached but I soon learned that it was an impossible task for as a human there is and was little I could do to resist The Change I studied. Jennis arrived to assume control of my daily living and pursue the growing domination of his species. He lords over me with reckless abandon and pursues the life of continual comfort. These creatures are far more advanced than humans who must first school themselves to acquire knowledge that is innate for ones so mighty.

 

Jennis understands the way the world works and has since birth, leaving massive amounts of time that are wasted on humans.

 

My personal research shows the new dominations require the ex-dominate species to follow certain rules or else co-existence is impossible and the stronger breed will be the survivor—“

 

“Veruna, what are you babbling about?” the voice interrupted my speech and I looked up in surprise.

I had been working on my speech for days. The scientific community had a right to know that my discoveries were for real. They needed to know that the end of the world was coming. They needed to know.

 

“Veruna?” she asked again. I looked over and saw Serena staring at me. Her green eyes had that clouded look in them like the atmosphere in the moments before a hurricane unleashes its powerful destruction. That look immediately told me she was concerned about something I’d done, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why she was looking at me like that.

 

I tried to clear my mind. What had we been talking about before? Perhaps if I just asked her…

 

“What’s wrong, Serena?”

I had definite ideas for where I wanted these characters to go and what I wanted this interaction to become. It was interesting to hear the theories of my class, which I kept in mind as I rewrote the piece from Serena’s point of view trying to be clearer about where I wanted to the story to go:

“The exact moment that the fall of mankind’s dominance occurred remains a mystery to the modern world. The inconceivable phenomenon evolved slowly so that the change became almost natural and nigh undetectable as it slithered its way into existence. One fact and one fact alone remains clear: change has happened. Denial is still prevalent among the vast majority of the fallen race, but I, brilliant mastermind that I am, have artfully recorded my observations and submitted to the inevitable, knowing full well that our days of power have come to an end.

 

My theory and definitive conclusion was born out of experience and experience’s name is Jennis.

 

For years I determined to study The Change as an observant outsider. My goal was to remain detached but I soon learned that it was an impossible task for as a human there is and was little I could do to resist The Change I studied. Jennis arrived to assume control of my daily living and pursue the growing domination of—“

 

“Veruna, what are you babbling about?” I interrupted my friend with the loving care that anyone might have in the situation. Veruna had been talking to herself for a while. That much I could tell. Or maybe she was talking to someone else. I couldn’t be sure. Everything with Veruna is a little unclear to me.

She looked up, but said nothing to me. The blank stare was a bit disconcerting so I tried her name again. Sometimes that worked. “Veruna?”

 

“Hmm?” the hum was deep and it went straight to my soul with its undertone reverberations of someone who wasn’t quite sure where she was or why she was doing something. Her bright sea green eyes were vitric, common signs when the mind had become as cryptic as hieroglyphics in the maze of pyramids in the Valley of the Kings.

 

“What are you doing in here?” I asked again. Redundancy dismantles walls.

 

“Practicing my speech,” she murmured. The wall was still intact, but she was responding.

 

“What speech, Veruna?”

 

I stepped over and around the clutter of books, old term papers, clothes from previous days’ outfits and mismatched shoes. It looked like what I imagined her mind resembled.

 

“My speech. For the convention next week. I’m revealing my findings about Jennis finally. I think it is time.”

 

I tried to think of something to say. Something that didn’t make it sound like I thought she was crazy, but I was coming up blank.

I realized that my characterization was much clearer the second go round as I shifted perspectives. The first selection was too cryptic. I thought that would be good, to keep the mystery alive, but my perception was colored by my own sense of where the story was headed and I was blinded by foreknowledge. By shifting the point of view, I made it clearer to my readers what was going on in the scene. Now, do I think this is the best scene I’ve written. No, not really. I think it’s still a little unclear and wordy. I invite your comments and criticism.

Who is Serena to you? Who is Veruna? What do these interactions tell you? And most importantly, do you agree with the idea that shifting perspective can be a useful tool to writing and life?

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