From perspective to perception

A railway track is perspective trying to make a point

A railway track is perspective trying to make a point

What makes your writing unique from all others is your perspective, the way thoughts, words and actions are interpreted in your mind.

If 10 people witness the same collision between two cars, each one will recount a slightly varied story from another. Some may gauge the speeds of the vehicles differently or not remember the same car braking first.

Less what you remember and more how you remember is influenced consciously and unconsciously by your personal experiences, your beliefs and your moods. As good a reason as any for the police and court system not to rely on a single eye witness account whenever possible.

The same is true for your writing.

Although our imaginations give us some ability to write fanciful stories and characters outside our day-to-day scope, a close examination of our oddest creations will show that they are largely reinterpretations of things we have read or experienced in other stories.

Dragons, for example, are likely an amalgamation of flying raptors (e.g., eagles), strange lizards (e.g., monitors) and giant fossilized remains that humans have dug up for millennia. How else to explain the similarity of a T. rex skull and monitor lizards?

How to make a dragon with 3 simple ingredients!

How to make a dragon with 3 simple ingredients!

At the same time, it was the unique experience of these three factors in combination that may have resulted in the first dragon description. A truly unique perspective.

To consider it another way, think on the meaning of perspective in the visual arts:

The art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point.

Giving the right impression of [facts]…from a particular point [of view].

But what if you changed that point of view?

3-Point Perspective

Changing perspectives is perhaps the easiest way to approach cliché writing and makes the predictable unexpected.

If you want to tell a love story that is essentially Romeo & Juliet, tell it from the perspective of rival street gangs in New York. Oh, but wait; they already made that one.

Then how about from the perspective of fish in a pet shop and instead of rival families, it is the divide between fresh and salt water? Crazy, hunh? (NOTE: I already wrote this one, so please go write something else.)

The same holds true whether you’re considering an entire story, a single scene, an individual line of dialogue or a character trait.

How might the floor of a dance club look if you changed your perspective from that of an evening reveller to that of an observer seated on a ceiling rafter? Probably like one of those wild life documentaries describing the mating habits of some ridiculous animal.

Or what might your backyard “look” like if your only sense was touch?

By changing your perspective in even the smallest of ways (you don’t have to blind yourself), you can dramatically alter your perception of the world.

So, the next time you find yourself stuck for an idea or facing a cliché moment in your writing, try looking at your world upside-down or through another character’s eyes.

Take a new perspective and you’ll reach a whole new point.

(Drawing is property of owner and is used here without permission because I take a different perspective on these things.)

2 thoughts on “From perspective to perception

  1. Your points about perspective remind me of the short story, “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver. He explored this concept perfectly. If you haven’t read it definitely do.
    I too am exploring perspective as I write my novel. I’m dealing with the point of view of a black woman compared with that of a white man. They tell the same story, but their outlooks are completely different.

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