This morning on the way to the mailbox, I took so many pictures that my camera informed me my batteries were “exhausted.” There wasn’t anything special going on other than the beauty of the changing foliage, but that’s all it took for me to snap hundreds of pictures of my yard, dog, sky, leaves—anything that didn’t move faster than my camera lens.
While on the surface this doesn’t seem relevant to a writing blog, I want to illustrate the concept of perspective with a couple of pictures I took. Perspective is how the narrator of a scene views what is going on, what they see, and how they interpret it all.
Here are pictures of a tree in my back yard. The first one is how it looks from the chair I was sitting on, gazing over the railing. It shows the details of the tree, with little to distract anyone from the beauty of the changing leaves. Although some people might wonder why I chose it, or what point I was trying to make, they know immediately that my purpose has something to do with a tree.
The second one shows the same tree reflected in the glass of the coffee table on my deck. Someone looking at it might think I was showing how dirty it is, or that the flower pot I took off of it a few days ago left a noticeable ring on the glass. Or perhaps I wanted to show off the mug my son gave me. The tree is there, dimly reflected but as beautiful as ever. Few people will focus on its beauty, however, because this picture isn’t from the best perspective for showcasing fall foliage.
Using the wrong perspective, or focusing on things that aren’t relevant, can leave the reader confused. As writers, we need to select the best perspective for our story. That may involve writing in third person instead of first, or vice versa. It may mean we need to switch to another viewpoint character in some chapters to give the reader a complete picture of what is going on. Sometimes it means digging down to a deeper level, layering in details about what the narrator thinks or feels so the reader is not left in doubt as to the purpose of the scene.
On August 23, 2009, I described the 3 most common viewpoints for a story. Check here, if interested.
Besides switching the point of view character, how can we give the reader a clearer perspective of what’s going on in our stories? In your opinion, do frequent changes in the point of view add richness, or do they interrupt the flow of the story?