I’m putting the finishing touches…or pre-finishing touches…on my latest manuscript. Near the beginning of the novel, one of the characters is swamped with thoughts of a crisis that just hit, but he isn’t read to tell anyone. So he’s in his head a lot. Which can be a little boring to read if it goes on…and on… for too long.
As part of my pre-finishing touches, I’d made a list of scenes with the key player (s) and a one-phrase description to trigger my memory. As I was looking at the list, it occurred to me that I could simply switch the point of view.
Now, I know that in the writing world, there are strong opinions on the idea of Point of View.
A well-done story, in first-person can immerse the reader in the mind of the character, creating tension with not knowing the true motivations of others, because we can’t get in their heads…like in real life. 😉
A third-person story can do the same, if it focuses on one character and only allows small glimpses into the minds of other characters. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery is a favorite that does this…Ohhh, so that’s why he called her “Carrots”!
Some stories alternate between two key players, like my Regency novels do, allowing the reader to see what’s really going on while the two characters may have misunderstanding or uncertainty clouding their perception of one another…Just tell her you love her already! She loves you!!
Still other stories incorporate a great many perspectives. This approach can be dangerous, if the character “narrating” switches too often or without enough warning for the reader. Other times, though, it can be a magnificent approach. I haven’t read it myself, but my husband and daughter both read My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, and this book operates like that. In fact, each chapter is told by a different character!
Whether your preferences tend more toward first-person or a multi-perspective third person (or somewhere in between!), most people would agree that the perspective in a novel sets much of the tone and the expectation of the novel for the reader.
Back to my solved dilemma with the perspective in the opening scenes of the manuscript I’m finishing…When I decided to switch the POV, and started writing, it all became clear. I had gotten too caught in the head of this character, trying to propel the story through his eyes, when really it was time to take a peek into someone else’s mind. Not only does it give the reader a break from Heinrich’s admittedly angsty thoughts, but it allows the reader to get a sense of Marlein’s typical day (or at least evening), and see some of the ever-present joys, as well as sorrows, in her life…both of which will come to play in a larger way later in the story.
Because I firmly believe that fiction can speak more truly of life than sometimes we ourselves would like to, my thoughts turned while writing to perspective in life. I often find that as I’m working out the various spinning plates we humans in today’s world seem to be balancing — relationships, housekeeping, work, child-rearing, finances, and so on down the list — that another perspective is sometimes helpful. To refocus. To take a look from another angle. To pause and say, “Wait a moment.”
Where might you be in need of a different perspective?
And at the risk of sounding trite, despite the truth of it, the best perspective is God’s. And this isn’t just because He is God, but because of what His being God means. He can see more than we can: into hearts and minds, and into the future and the past. He can weave and bend, mold and refine, until the sticky and icky turns into lovely and worthwhile. He was and is and ever shall be, yet loves us with the tenderness of a Good Shepherd caring for His recalcitrant yet miraculously beloved sheep.
True, we can’t entirely get a perfect God-perspective, because of the dimness sin brings to our eyes. But we do know that in His Word (Isaiah 55:8), He tells us that His thoughts are not ours, nor His ways our ways. His Word is sure and powerful, accomplishing all He sends it to do. It is in this Word that we can find glimpses of His perspective, His heart. We are assured of His love and forgiveness in Christ, and told of the great love that the Father has lavished on us in His Son (1 John 3:1).
When we are caught up in a difficult time, it can be terribly difficult to find another perspective. However, when we are constantly in the Word, in seasons of want and seasons of plenty, in seasons of belonging and seasons of isolation, in seasons of work and seasons of rest…our hearts can begin to understand life from God’s eternal perspective.