Taking a fresh look at things
I am consumed by the idea of perspective. At the moment, I’m witnessing the effects of a visual processing disorder in one of my children, which means that for him, nothing is as it seems. I admit that as a parent, I’m busy doing everything I can to learn about what he’s experiencing and I am searching for anything that will allow me to see what he is seeing, the way he is seeing it.
Do I want to correct this stressful and frustrating issue for him? Sure. Do I want to be sure that everything is being done to give him the tools he needs to succeed in spite of this challenge? You bet.
But I’m sharing this with you today on this writer’s blog for a different reason, because of the single motivation that keeps me up at night since faced with this neurological puzzle and that is this: I don’t want him to feel alone.
And it struck me as I was pondering a topic for today’s post that this same driving motivation is really why we write. We want to share our own perspectives in a way that connects us with readers who can find themselves in our prose and our characters. We want to be assured that the way we see things is a common experience. Even when we disagree, we want to be able to say to ourselves and our readers that we can imagine feeling or behaving in just a certain way, faced with a certain set of circumstances.
We don’t want to be alone, not as writers or as readers. And so we spend hours and days and years of our lives casting our thoughts onto the page in the hopes that we’ll find a meeting of the minds. And yet, we so often don’t.
Why are we so afraid of seeing things from a different point of view?
Lately, the internet is a dangerous place when it comes to freely expressing individual perspectives. I think a lot of writers – and readers – are exhausted by the constant war of words that can be found in any comments section.
I’m one of the exhausted. But I woke up this morning with the realization that these two things – my son’s difference in visual perspective and what I’m seeing from every voice raised with the hope they’ll finally be heard – are the same thing.
We writers call it voice. The thing that makes my writing mine and your writing yours. Voice is what reveals us down to our bones and shows our substance in written form. Voice is perspective and perspective is the magic in our mundane human lives. It’s what sets our stories apart from one another and keeps them from being the same rote retelling through the centuries. It’s what makes a character, rather than a caricature.
With that in mind, I decided to, well, change my perspective. I wanted to see what would happen if I relaxed a little, let my vision lose its sharp, critical, even frightened focus and took a second look at my son’s difficulty, my work, and even the gnashing teeth of recent social media.
A few days ago, I watched a video that allowed me to see some of the visual images my son experiences when looking at a screen or a page of black and white print. They blurred and jumped and shifted and swirled. At first, I admit, I felt only horrible dismay at not realizing sooner that he was struggling so profoundly and I’d missed any sign of it.
But today, I watched the video again, with idea in mind to see things differently, and I came to a new conclusion that filled me with wonder. I’d just seen the world through someone else’s eyes. Someone who saw things completely differently than I ever could have imagined. And it changed me. It changed my mental perspective. It connected he and I where we had been disconnected and I was struck by the knowledge that I’d just accomplished the very thing I feared I would never be able to do for him: neither of us was alone.
With that in mind, I took a look at the characters I’m writing and tried to apply the same idea. I tried to move my own perspective aside and allow my imagination to conjure a perspective that is completely individual to the character. The most amazing thing started to happen. I learned something I hadn’t known about the character and about the story I’ve been trying to tell all along.
Now, granted this is really a little mind game when you’re working from your subconscious, but believe me when I say it was freeing to give myself permission to step outside the box where I keep my favorite ideas and see what mysteries might be discovered. There were layers and colors and impressions I’d never considered and the ideas brought a new depth to the story, and maybe a fresh connection to a reader I might have missed out on knowing if I hadn’t been brave enough to take that second look from a new angle. It was different from the way I usually see things, but the truth is, an author shouldn’t write from only one perspective or what would be the point?
I’m saying, take the chance on the power of voice and give it free rein to make your work stand out.
Of course, when it comes to the many perspectives we meet online every day, what I hope I’ve learned (or am learning) from my son’s gift is that I may not be able to see things the way another person sees them, but it doesn’t make their perspective less real or less valid.
As I writer, I am consciously trying to apply that to all my good guys and bad guys, all my lovers and haters, all my dreamers and doers. Same goes as a human being. And as it turns out, if there’s anything I had to say to you today, I guess it was really what all those voices are saying, what my son said, what all our characters are saying, if we let them.
I wish you could see what I see.
Why do you write? What has helped you develop your writing voice? What tricks do you use to see more deeply into your story and see it from each character's perspective?
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Kimberly Brock is the award winning author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, THE RIVER WITCH (Bell Bridge Books, 2012). A former actor and special needs educator, Kimberly is the recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year 2013 Award. A literary work reminiscent of celebrated southern author Carson McCullers, THE RIVER WITCH has been chosen by two national book clubs.
Kimberly’s writing has appeared in anthologies, blogs and magazines, including Writer Unboxed and Psychology Today. Kimberly served as the Blog Network Coordinator for She Reads, a national online book club from 2012 to 2014, actively spearheading several women’s literacy efforts. She lectures and leads workshops on the inherent power in telling our stories and is founder of Tinderbox Writer’s Workshop. She is also owner of Kimberly Brock Pilates.
She lives in the foothills of north Atlanta with her husband and three children, where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her website at kimberlybrockbooks.com for more information and to find her blog.