Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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September 27, 2017

A Writer’s Perspective on Point of View

Kimberly Brock
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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About Kimberly

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.

42 comments on “A Writer’s Perspective on Point of View”

  1. Kimberly, you know I adore your POV, as well as your voice, so I won't gush (wait - I just did). I always learn something from your posts. But this one - wow.

    I was reading it, getting more and more uncomfortable, and then it hits me - I'm so smug about digging deep, but I realized I'm still in my comfort zone, and being outside it is terrifying!

    Damn. One more thing to work on. Going to do that now.
    Thank you.

    1. Getting more and more uncomfortable is maybe how I feel all day every day, lately. Every word, every innuendo, every post feels divisive - and many of them are my own posts and comments and thoughts! I'm absolutely certain that I'm not the only one who feels alone these days. Or angry. Or tired. Or misunderstood. And I believe that as writers we are given a precious opportunity to lay these experiences bare on the page through our characters.

  2. This is pertinent on many levels. We are so entrenched in our own characters, political views, day-to-day lives, that we often just want to be heard without actually listening to everyone else who wants the same (and woe is the writing when we aren't listening to what our characters have to say, right?).

    Thank you for this - will try to stop, listen and experience the day's work (and social debates) in a new way today.

    1. Thank you for leaving a comment. This post is a little dangerous, I realize. But I feel like the importance of bringing the emotional experience of these times that we live in to our pages can't be stressed enough.The power of a writer lies in our capacity for empathy.

  3. Great post, Kim. I have seen so many writers—most of whom are social liberals, because we practice empathy and "walking a mile in another's shoes" on a daily basis—saying on Facebook, "If you believe this or this, unfriend me now." And I think wow, way to make a difference in the world. Way to lead by example. And hello—can you say "free research"? For a writer, a diverse FB feed is the bomb.

    1. I need to listen more, always more - as a human being AND a writer. That's something I learned at a young age when every report card said TALKS TO MUCH. WON'T STAY IN SEAT. I'm curious by nature and I want to understand the world. I don't always like what I hear, but if I don't listen then I can't connect, I can't form relationships, I can't know the truths that will inform my work and give it the power to reach a reader where they live.

  4. Thanks for sharing this experience.
    I worked as a therapist with teenagers with extreme emotional and behavioral problems - one was stuck in a nasty power struggle with a teacher, which he was bound to lose because the power was on her side. He loved chess. So I got the idea to play a game with him, and halfway through the game, I called a timeout and had him trade seats with me. I asked him to look at the game from the other player's perspective, and it was a revelation to him - we talked about what the teacher needed and how he could meet his own needs without attacking hers. Things got better there.
    Then when my own kids were teens, we took the Myers-Briggs personality type test together, and realized that while my son and I were exactly the same type (INTJ: Introvert-Intuitive-Thinking-Judging) my daughter was the diametric opposite (ESFP: Extravert-Sensing-Feeling-Perceiving.) I'd always understood him, even when we fought, but she and I had always seen each other as mystifying aliens. Now we saw that each of us had strengths and blind spots the other didn't, and we were able to get along at least a little bit better.

  5. Oh, Kim! This post ... wow.
    And I love this from your response to Laura: "I believe that as writers we are given a precious opportunity to lay these experiences bare on the page through our characters." So very yes!!!!!

  6. I get so excited whenever I see a post from you because I know you will make me think. I am blessed (or cursed) with the ability to see both sides in many circumstances. Usually the ones I don't have emotional stakes in.

    In both politics and Facebook, it has been damned uncomfortable to understand both sides of the voting block. I truly got why each of the frontrunners had their rabid following and why each of the frontrunners were supremely flawed candidates. The middle has been a lonely place to be over the last several election cycles. During this cycle, the middle was a dangerous place to be on Facebook.

    What did I do to cope? I voted early by mail, then turned most of the political feeds and chatter off, and quietly got into the middle of my characters where things were just a little more safe.

  7. Kimberly, I really liked this article. I've been trying to find my writer's voice and my artist's eye, and this article made me pause and think, "Yes, we all have our very own voices, but our characters have their own voices too," and if we stop for just a moment, they will talk to us, and if we listen, we will be able to hear them.
    Thanks for a wonderful article on seeing things differently. CC

  8. And I thought I had problems with a son who is classified as a non-conventional thinker. Therapy and tools have come a long way. I hope your son is able to use what is available.

    I am a right-brain thinker and my perspective tends to swing pretty far out there to one side, the emotional side. In spite of this, I have been able to teach myself to see situations from other points of view, which makes writing in multi points of view a little easier. Still, I consider this MY point of view.

  9. Great post Kimberly: challenging and intelligent.Especially since I've grown older, I try thinking outside the box a lot more; stepping into others shoes gives a depth to characters that, I hope...makes them more human and believable. Great stuff.

  10. You have a beautiful way with words Kimberley. I love that you can have all these emotions about situations, your son, the media etc and yet your writing here wins affirmation and smiles, friends and positive responses. We all feel alone at times and my views are not popular with my very close and very dear church friends, so I have been imagining lately a bigger space between them and myself. Like you say, it is just my perspective and may not even be close to the truth. So thank you for this blog, it comes at just the right time for me. I am sad that your son has been so frustrated over his eye condition. Maybe if he could paint, his frustration could transform into a thing of beauty. He would be like no other painter on the planet, unique. Thank you, I care.

  11. I still struggle sometimes to write outside my own personal perspective. When asked to write a different gender or ethnicity, its hard to force myself to think and see the world in the way they might. But it's important to stretch yourself in that way as a writer, or all your stories will be...the same.

  12. This post describes exactly why I had to finish four books before I was willing to start sharing them with readers... Thanks Kimberly!

  13. Thanks so much for this post. I always believed this but had blocked it out when I would encounter all the POV info. When I write I become the character be it man or woman or child. I have never thought of putting all this into words so my great thanks for doing it for me. I will no longer try to put it all in a box with an approving ribbon. It will just be mine and if an editor says different I will be rewriting to please them. But my approval is what matters and if I get it like I feel it, it will be ok. Confusing when I put it in words but I know what I mean and will be putting it to work.

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