Characters & Perspective

I was traveling recently on an airplane. I enjoy taking the window seat because I love the view—the tapestry of patchwork fields, shades of brown and green, winding rivers and creeks serpentining through the maze. Straight man-made roads try to divide all this into rectangles, squares, even some triangles. This tapestry has such majesty. Even with its hodgepodge look, it seems to have a plan.

On the ground, however, it’s very difficult to get a feel of the patterns, to see the big picture, the grandeur of it all. The world seems to come at you much faster, more messy, more out of control.

That’s when I began to wonder about how people see things from different perspectives. Like the difference between how my 6 foot 2 inch husband sees the world from how I –nearly a foot shorter—see the world. Or even lower down still—how my 12 inch high dog and cats see the world. They must mainly see legs and feet and close-up ground views. Certainly a different world than from my view.

When I’m writing it’s important for me to see the world through each of my characters’ eyes to get the right perspective. In one of my middle grade novels, MONSTER MISFITS, I tell the story through two different characters’ views of their world—alternating chapters. It was fun to keep switching views but to continue telling the same story.

What if I took these two very different characters, Frank—a gentle outcast with his own demons to fight, and Malcolm—a bad boy who’s not so sure of who he really is and not so sure he wants to know—what if they had been on the plane ride with me?

Malcolm would demand the window seat, pushing me into the aisle seat then crawling over me. But he would soon grow bored with the view—too much time to think and Malcolm’s not a thinker; he’s a monster and don’t you forget it. He would push me out of my aisle seat and proceed to trip the people walking by. A little while later I’d hear cries from the flight attendants. I’d rush to the lavatory and see Malcolm laughing and snorting as blue water from the toilet he’d stopped-up sloshed around his dirty boots.

Frank, on the other hand, would have insisted I take the window seat, but he would have leaned over from time to time to catch a view. “It all looks so big from up here,” he’d say. “Seems like there should be enough room for everybody, doesn’t it?” Then he’d sit back and pull his comb from his pocket and absently run it through his neat hair before he’d remember monsters weren’t supposed to have neat hair and jam the comb back into his pocket. He’d pull out the Sky Mall magazine and flip through it, not really looking at the pictures but wondering if his monstrous brother Goolbert would ever water his Venus Fly Trap plant while he was away. Undoubtedly not.

Characters and Perspective go hand-in-hand. How do your characters see the world? Try taking them for a plane ride and see if you can get to know them a bit better. For more ideas on getting to know your characters, here are some suggestions from Sandra Miller,

And you can also find more ideas right here on my website under TIPS FOR WRITERS—Characters.

0 thoughts on “Characters & Perspective

  1. Ahhh…what a lovely thought. A plane ride with your characters. I’d like to spend some time with every character I’ve ever created…on the same flight. Wouldn’t that be a challenge for the attention span? Blog on, Cindy. You’re quite good at it!t

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