In the book “Misquoting Jesus,” the author remarks about how an event is portrayed four different ways by four different people. He asks himself “Which way did it really happen?” He never admits to himself that it actually might have happened four different ways, all based on the perception of the person who is giving the account. Think about your favorite book and about how rare it is to find someone who sees the main character in the same way you do. A real-life anecdote, like how your sleep was last night, would be told by your bed-partner completely differently–especially if you snore. This is the quintessential dilemma of a writer. How do you make the reader see what you want them to see?
The truth is that you can’t make them see what you want them to see. You can’t even get those pictures out of your head the way you want them to come out. Once the scene leaves your head, it has been corrupted by the limits of interpretation and language. How a reader hears your voice, the voice of your narrator, and a million other nuances from how well they slept to how hungry they are, affect the perspective of a reader. Even if you had a video camera and could film the exact scene in your head, it would still be subject to a viewers perspective.
This isn’t to say that you should give up on getting that scene down as perfectly as possible as a writer, I only point out that no matter how perfectly you do pen it down, it is still going to be colored by the perceptions of a reader. That is not something you can control. It is best to let the story guide you, let it come out naturally (even if ‘naturally’ for you is sitting around and brainstorming for days on end before you start writing) and, as I wrote in a previous blog, it’s best to stay true to your characters.
That being said, there are many frustrations with being a writer, not the least of which is having so many stories, ideas and scenes in your head that you feel like your head might burst if you can’t spill it all out somehow. Instead of explaining it, I have decided to make a self portrait out of it:
I don’t have dandruff. I have writers head.
One thought on “Perspective – And How It Feels To Be A Writer”
Noelle, you’ve described writers head perfectly. That’s how I feel much of the time, so many stories, so little time. Except when I’m deeply absorbed in a particular project, then my entire universe is that story. And you’re so right about perspectives. I have found that even choosing which character’s POV in which to write a story has a vast impact on how the story turns out. So it’s not just the readers, it’s the characters, too. Love your insights.
Comments are closed.