Monday, August 19, 2013

Perspective-Taking (pt 2): In Writing

In my last post,  I wrote about how perspective-taking is a skill everybody needs and uses. It's essential for social interaction and establishing relationships. It's how we relate to one another.

Today, I'm going to talk about how perspective-taking is a must for writing. It is crucial to authors. It's easier and more difficult to take a character's perspective. First of all, they are made up, they are created, they are imaginary. How do you relate to an imaginary character? How can you consider their thoughts and feelings?

You created them for a purpose, to act in certain ways and do certain things, and yet they must have their own motivations. They must have thoughts and feelings, reasons for acting the way they do, or else they will fall flat. They won't feel alive to the reader. Even the villains need good reasons for the things they do. Why do they hurt people? What in their past has made them act like this? How might we all come to such evil actions, if circumstances were different?

The best writers do this well. Their characters feel alive. Indeed, sometimes a character can become so alive, they do things the writer doesn't expect. That might sound crazy but it's true. They can take a life of their own, and if they do, the writer is doing their job. You can't force a character to do things. You can create the motivation and the reasons they do them, though. It's a writer's job. Humans do things for a reason. Something motivates them, something makes them think it is what they should do. Characters should be the same way.

The best villains are the ones we relate to. The ones we realize we could become, if our positions were reversed. They are also the most troubling. See the situation from your hero's point of view before you make him save the day. Why is he saving the day, besides the obvious? Why fight or struggle?

If you're rushing through a draft of a story, it's okay to ignore things, but you can't forever. You have to go back, view the character's actions, and ensure they have good reasons for doing so, even if those reasons only seem good to that character.

Get some perspective.

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