Why perspectives are like shoes.

Have you ever bought a pair of shoes/trainers/clogs?

They are the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen (maybe not the clogs). You tried them on in the shop and gloried at how they looked.

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‘Wooden Shoes’ by Bill Longshaw, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

You get them home, get on your matching dress/jeans/lederhosen. Place them on your feet only to find that they are more uncomfortable than David Cameron reading E.L. James.

So, either you do as I do. Go without shoes and claim you gave them to a homeless person on the way – this can also win you brownie points for your selflessness.

Or you minimise the time you move and when you do, try not to look like a raptor wearing heels.

Writing persectives can be the same kind of thing thing. It seemed like a good idea at the beginning, but now you’re half way through the story, somethings happening and you’re feeling uncomfortable.

The above example is a little obvious. But what if you have many characters all in the same place? How do you know which perspective to write in?

Like the shoes, you’re only going to know when you’ve worn them around the house and crushed the backs in a bit. (Shoe lovers gasp in horror!).

So if you’re not sure, try them on.

Here’s an example of a story of my own. It has four characters. Three of which are in every scene. So I’ve wrote a version from each of those character’s point’s of view.

The eldest sister – Christine;

‘Is it dead?’ Meri stared up at me with teary eyes.

I nodded, poking its fat bloated body under the thorny bush that bordered the garden. She buried her face in my trousers.

I huffed, loud enough for her to hear. ‘God, don’t be such a baby, Meri.’

She clung to me tighter and I felt the pang of guilt settle in like an unwelcome guest. Bending down, I peeled her from my leg and brushed her hair from her face.

‘It didn’t feel any pain,’ I said.

‘How can you be sure?’ Her brow furrowed as she looked down at the wretched creature.

‘Because the exterminator said so, that’s why,’ I said.

The next one is from the Mother;

I watched from the kitchen as Christine poked at the thing with a stick. Meri looked up at her, lip trembling, as if her heart would break.

Christine had never been a compassionate or loving child. Even from an early age. She spent her time fishing carp out of the pond or catching mice to tease the cats. A perfect partner for her father to go hunting with.

Not like Meri.

Meri was, softer, innocent. She didn’t have that cast-iron shell her older sister had developed so well.

Christine shoved the creature under the hedge with a sharp jab. Then she bent down and took Meri’s face in her hands. She couldn’t hear what was said, but as the two headed towards the house, Meri was smiling again.

Obviously this is completely useless as a perspective, far too far away from the action and doesn’t take the story in the direction I want it to go.

Then finally, the perspective that I chose. The little sister, Meri’s, perspective;

‘Is it dead?’ I clung to my sister’s leg as she poked its fat bloated body.

‘Yes,’ she replied. The toad rolled over. She gave it another sharp prod pushing it underneath the thorny hedge that edged our garden.  I buried my face in her trousers.

‘Don’t be a baby Meri.’ Christine’s eyebrows knitted together and I turned away.  She gave a heavy sigh and bent down, her dark brown hair brushing the ground.

‘It didn’t feel any pain,’ she whispered.

‘How can you be sure?’ I frowned and looked back to the poor innocent creature, lying discarded like a broken toy.

‘Because the exterminator said so, that’s why.’ She brushed my fringe out of my eyes and tucked it behind my ear.

With this perspective I can be close to the action, but not to close, therefore still keeping the tension as the story unfolds.

This choice was pretty clear for me from the beginning, but not every story is the same.

If you’re having trouble with a story and you don’t know who to choose, take the story and write a beginning from the perspective of each character. When you do, the choice will become clear.

Good luck with your stories, and if anyone tries this, (or the clogs), I would love to hear your results.Maybe it opens up a perspective you didn’t think of before.

Until next time, happy writing!

Please note: Lederhosen are not traditionally worn with clogs. It’s just that clogs sounded funnier than Bavarian footwear 🙂