Practicing Perspective

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Writers should always be practicing their writing skills.  In Building Fiction, by Jesse Lee Kercheval, there is an interesting writing exercise.  It is to write a scene from a few different perspectives. I think this is a good exercise, especially if you are writing a book with multiple point of view characters.

When I do this exercise, I don’t worry about revising; I just let the writing flow, and focus only on the perspective.

Here is an example I wrote:

Calliope held the phone in her hand.  She thought of calling her sister, Bec.  Bec was thirteen years older than her, and they always had a somewhat distant relationship.

She dialed her number quickly.  The phone rang three times, and Calliope thought of hanging up.

“Hello” a perky voice on the other line said.

“Uh, hi.  This is Callie. How are you?”

“Oh! Callie, my little sister! I’m so glad you called!  We haven’t talked in forever!”

“Um, yeah we should catch up.”

“By the way, why didn’t you come to my wedding? It was so magical!  The bridesmaids looked so pretty, in that deep purple. And the food was so good.  We had a barbeque.  I know that’s not common wedding food, but it was really fun.” Bec said cheerily.

Callie was silent for a minute.  “Oh, I wish I could have come!”  she said pretending that she really wanted to go.

But in reality, she had chosen not to go, because prom was on the same day as her sister’s wedding.  Bec lived in another state, and there was no way she could be in both places at once.  Calliope had been asked to go by a cute guy, who she had liked since her freshmen year of high school.  She was a senior, now and wouldn’t have another opportunity to go to a prom again.   She knew this decision was very selfish, but she really, really wanted to go!

“Oh, well, Johnny and I are so happy!  You should visit us sometime; we have the cutest little country home!  I just love it!” Becca said enthusiastically.

“Yes, I want too.” Calliope said, this time sincerely.

“So, how’s school?” Becca said in her older sister way.

“It’s good.  I really love my history teacher. He’s so great.  I think I’m one of his favorite students” she said proudly.

“Well, I’m so glad…. Sorry,  I have to go.  Johnny and I are going somewhere tonight. Goodbye! I’ll call you soon!” Bec said quickly.

“Bye” Calliope hung up the phone. Becca’s cheerful sweetness made her feel guilty for not coming to her wedding.

She looked at her vibrant red prom dress, which somehow didn’t look so pretty anymore, and sighed.  Somehow I’ll make it up to her, she thought.

Then, I wrote the same scene from Bec’s point of view:

Bec was working on her editing jobs. She started working from home after she married her husband a few months ago.  The phone rang loudly and she ran to the kitchen to get it.  She felt a pang of sadness when she saw her sister’s name on the phone. She remembered how sad she was when she realized Calliope wasn’t at her wedding.  They were 13 years apart and they had a somewhat distant relationship, despite Bec’s attempts to be friendly to her little sister.

“Hello” Bec said perkily.

“Uh, hi.  This is Callie. How are you?”

“Oh! Callie, my little sister! I’m so glad you called!  We haven’t talked in forever!” her voice became happier. I wonder if she’ll explain why she didn’t come to my wedding.

“Um, yeah we should catch up.”

“By the way, why didn’t you come to my wedding? It was so magical!  The bridesmaids looked so pretty, in that deep purple. And the food was so good.  We had a barbeque.  I know that’s not common wedding food, but it was really fun.” Bec said cheerily, hoping her sister would catch the happiness in her voice and chat more openly.

Callie was silent for a minute.  “Oh, I wish I could have come!” she said wistfully. She’s hiding something, Bec thought.

“Oh, well, Johnny and I are so happy!  You should visit us sometime; we have the cutest little country home!  I just love it!” Bec said enthusiastically.

“Yes, I want too.” Calliope said sincerely. Well, at least she wants to visit me.

“So, how’s school?” Bec said in her older sister way.

“It’s good.  I really love my history teacher. He’s so great.  I think I’m one of his favorite students” she said proudly.

“Well, I’m so glad” Then the door opened and Johnny stood in the doorway. Bec smiled sweetly at him. “Sorry Callie, I have to go.  Johnny and I are going somewhere tonight.  Goodbye! I’ll call you soon!” She finished quickly.

“Bye” Calliope said.

 

Here are some writing prompts for writing a scene from different perspectives:

Write the scene from the point of view of an insane person.

Write the scene from the point of view of a child.

Write the scene from the point of view of a man.

Write the scene from the point of view of a woman.

Write the scene from the point of view of an inanimate object (Ex. a chair or a table) or an animal or plant.

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