Understanding Perspective

The easiest mistake to make in writing is to muddle your character’s perspective.

It happens all the time, and it usually isn’t intentional. The problem is, when this happens, your readers are left scratching their heads and wondering what happened to the MC’s worldview.

First off, I want to make something clear.

If your MC (aka main character, by the way) doesn’t have a perspective on life, then he/she is very similar to a piece of cardboard that can walk around and make intelligible noises.

No one wants to read about a boring piece of cardboard, do they?

Well, some people might, but that’s beside the point.

The point, my friends, is that it’s very, very, VERY important that you understand your character’s perspective. And it is also important that you understand how to understand your MC’s perspective.

If you’ve never really thought about it, you may come up with something like this…

For example: Timothy (MC) believes that books are evil. He hates propaganda and free speech. He believes in oppressing opinions and that children should not learn how to read.

Now, reading over this quickly sounds like you have a solid understanding of Timmy’s perspective. (And it’s an awful perspective on life, if you ask me…)

But let’s just say you sat down to write and you began to write about Timmy’s life and his daily conversations with people.

You may run into a few speed bumps pretty quickly.

Just writing down what a character believes isn’t the same as understanding. You may write down that they believe eating oatmeal every day will vastly improve life on earth… And then you will have them walking around, spouting off this information without a clue as to why they are doing it.

Why?

The all-important question.

You probably were expecting that understanding perspective required a complicated process… It’s not complicated. All you have to do is ask yourself why do they believe what they believe? Why do they hold that opinion/point of view?

To be honest, “why” can turn into a whole discussion. You will never reach one conclusion. However, every start to understanding something requires you to climb into the bottomless well of “why”…

Instead of just being there to make your life difficult and to make you feel annoyed at the amount of thinking you have to do, the “why” question will smooth your writing path as you go along. You’re going to have to answer it some time, and getting it done at the beginning will take away a ton of rewriting you would’ve had to do.

For example.: Timothy believes all books are evil because…

Honestly, I can’t give a reason for that because that has no reason. It is irrational thinking.

You get the point.

And you just got a little pep talk about understanding perspective.

To help you along, here are a few steps you can take to better understand your character’s perspective.

  1. Make a list of opinions/beliefs that define your character
  2. Dig into the back story of your character and examine their motives
  3. Ask the “why” question and fill in the because blank
  4. Take your character’s perspective and read it (and his/her’s reasons for believing it) aloud to a friend. Ask if they could understand the reasons. (Understanding is different from agreeing with.)
  5. Write a dialogue between two characters using that perspective. Does it make sense? Does it seem to come from the character himself? Could you see this in the real world as a perspective someone might actually have?

Perspectives change. That’s what makes a character arc so special.

This is another reason why understanding perspective is so important. You can’t make a perspective change if you didn’t really know what it was in the first place.

Yes, you may know that Timmy thinks books are evil, but you can’t make that belief change.

Why not?

Because you won’t be able to provide relevent reasons why his perspective should change in the first place. At least from his point of view.

So yeah.

Understanding perspective is very important. And it helps a ton with planning character arcs.

I hope this helped, and good luck with your character perspectives!

-Julia, H

 

 

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