By Deren Bott
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power that perspective can bring to our writing. All writers, to some degree, understand this innately. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase: write what you know, but the perspective I’m talking about goes beyond that. Perspective is as much about your characters as it is about the author.
One of the first choices an author must decide when writing is what perspective to use when telling the story, and there are a lot of options to choose from. Some of the most popular are omniscient, third person, first, past tense, and present tense to name a few. Each of these perspectives has its own pros and cons that they bring to the table, but do we understand how to capitalize on the benefits?
For example, a first-person story may be limited in allowing your audience to experience everything that is happening around that character. Scenes may have to be changed and other characters’ thoughts may have to remain in their head. However, one of the benefits of the first-person narrative is the inherent connection to the character that we get as a reader. Through first-person, we are able to be close enough to the character to see what they see, feel what they feel, and enjoy whatever snarky inner commentary may happen to be going on through their head at the time. I’m always disappointed if I feel like an author missed out on this amazing opportunity to connect me to their world with a character that I am able to come to understand through their perspective.
Now, this benefit of connecting to a character isn’t something that is limited to the first-person, and this is reflected in the common saying “show don’t tell.” While that phrase can have many different meanings, the one I want to highlight is the ability that the author has to show their world through the eyes of their character. Through their perspective. How does a reader become even more absorbed in the story? Show them how the character feels about it. For example, say that a girl was in love with someone she hadn’t seen in a long time. Don’t just tell them it had been years since they had been together. Show them how she gazed longingly out the window for hours while holding a worn picture in her hands. Show them how her heart skipped a beat when she heard a knock at the door. Let them hear her gasps of joy as she runs down the stairs and feel the warmth of their embrace. Let the reader feel like the scene is alive.
The power of perspective is what draws a reader into the story. It’s what makes them laugh at the funny moments, cry at the sad moments, and relish the happy moments. It’s what makes them treasure every little detail and makes them want even more. Never pass up the opportunity to show the reader who someone is and, even more importantly, how they see the world.