From the Archives: New Perspectives

While visiting one of my favourite blogs one Thursday back in November 2011 — Susan Atole’s Just… a Moment — I was intrigued by the unusual perspective in her featured photos. I learned she had been challenged by someone to lay on her back for taking photo shots, and I decided to try it, too.

This unusual perspective offered design and reflections, glimmers of colours and shapes not previously noticed. The ordinary became extraordinary.

There’s something to be said for lifting our eyes beyond the obvious. If we always look at things from the same perspective, we’re going to keep seeing the same things in the same way. It’s true in life, and it’s true in writing.

I’ve been doing some editing for a friend, and am appalled at how often I’ve found an error in sections already line edited several times. “How could I possibly have missed that?” Every time I read through a chapter on the computer my brain insisted on reading what it expected to find, not necessarily what my eyes were seeing. It wasn’t until I printed the manuscript and read it in the new format that more errors popped out at me. For the final proofing I printed it again, but in a different font, and found still more.

A new perspective provides fresh inspiration when we’re bogged down writing a scene, too. Where do we go when our only idea keeps leading us to a proverbial brick wall? Sometimes we need to take the story on the road … write in a different environment, use different tools, maybe give the scene to a different character.

A different perspective tricks the brain into shifting its thinking. And that new viewpoint may be all that’s needed to stimulate the mind and send it off in a fresh direction.

Besides laying on your back, how might you achieve a new perspective for an existing project? Has a new perspective ever helped you out of a dilemma? 

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(A click on the photo will enlarge it so you can see the source of my camera’s focus.)

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The day this was originally posted (in 2011) I was also talking about Dealing with Transitions over at The Pastor’s Wife Speaks Blog. Please consider clicking on over there if you’d like to read what I said on that topic. [The Pastor’s Wife Speaks blog was discontinued at the end of November 2011, so it was my final post there.]

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Is it perspective or point of view?

Driving into town one day last summer I saw the pale moon hanging low on the horizon. I had to check the calendar later to learn it was a “waxing half moon”.

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Then, after midnight on Christmas Eve, while returning home from a late candlelight service at our church I saw the half moon again. This time, however, it was a bright “waning half moon”.

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I’ve never studied astronomy… never thought much about waxing or waning. But I was curious enough to Google for lunar information. I learned that what I saw from my location in the northern hemisphere is not the same as a person viewing it from the southern hemisphere, but the opposite…

“Assuming that the viewer is in the northern hemisphere, the right portion of the Moon is the part that is always growing (i.e., if the right side is dark, the Moon is growing darker; if the right side is lit, the Moon is growing lighter). In the southern hemisphere the Moon is observed from a perspective inverted to that of the northern hemisphere, so the opposite sides appear to grow (wax) and shrink (wane).” [Wikipedia]

A friend’s recent Facebook post bemoaned the lack of doors in her home where previous occupants had knocked out walls to create an open floor plan. (Yes, this really does have something to do with the previous paragraphs.) She likes smaller rooms and likes being able to close off certain rooms. In the comments someone else said, “Love our open floor plan! It’s great for family gatherings and entertaining.”

It really IS all in the perspective, isn’t it?

For a time when I first began writing fiction, I thought perspective and point of view were the same thing. Eventually I learned that perspective depends on which character will tell the story, while point of view depends on how it will be told. That’s where First Person, Second Person, Third Person (Limited) and Third Person (Omniscient) points of view come into play. There are advantages and disadvantages to each but since this isn’t meant to be an in-depth lesson on POV, I won’t go into them.

On New Year’s Day I finally finished the rewrite/revision of my current work in progress. Although I’ve changed many things during my revision, point of view (POV) wasn’t one of them. A previous novel went through three POV changes before I was satisfied. What a headache that was! It taught me to make the choice before starting future manuscripts.

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Writers, when and how do you decide what POV you’ll use? And readers, does the choice of POV affect your enjoyment of a story?

Super Moon

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Are you motivated by the destination or the journey?

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There were just two daffodils in our entire yard. I know better than to plant tulips because the deer consider them a gourmet salad mix. But I’ve planted dozens of deer-resistant daffs and narcissus through the years, carefully selecting varieties said to be good naturalizers. The first year several bloom; the next only a few; and from then on I’m lucky if there are any. I just don’t seem to have any luck with them. But I noticed these two daffodils a couple days ago, gamely working their way up through the protection of a rhododendron branch, and I smiled.

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Yesterday my hubby handed them to me. We’d had an exceptionally heavy rainstorm, and he found both of them broken, with their sunny faces resting on the ground. I rinsed them off and tucked them into a vase. The sun came out briefly during the afternoon and shone through the window. I couldn’t stop admiring how the flowers looked, basking in the glow. Naturally I reached for my camera and took shots from every angle.

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It was only as I reviewed the photos on my computer that I noticed something. I had selected a vase based on its appropriate size, and not paid a lot of attention to which one it was. But the sun’s rays made it glisten, and now my attention was drawn to the beauty I’d overlooked.

We often chuckle at young children who get more pleasure from the box than from the gift inside. Other times we may go overboard and labour over gift wrapping until the exterior of a package is worth more than its contents. In my case, I found joy in sunshine through petals, and only later gleaned equal pleasure from the casually chosen container.

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How often do we miss seeing the obvious? And when we miss seeing, we forget thankfulness. And without thankfulness there is no joy.

Not long ago I printed out “A Year of Graces” from Ann Voskamp’s website — a perpetual calendar with lines on which to record those things for which I am thankful each day. On the first page is this statement:

“Joy is always a function of gratitude —
and gratitude is always a function of perspective.
If we are going to change our lives,
what we’re going to have to change
is the way we see.”

Later there is this:

“No one gets to joy by trying to make everything perfect.
One only arrives there by seeing in every imperfection
all that is joy.”

And in that was my analogy, just waiting to be found… the link to writing. I have always affirmed that I enjoy revising my writing. There is such satisfaction in refining to bring forward the best a story can be. Yet many times I struggle with revisions, trying unsuccessfully to find exactly the right words, too often becoming frustrated and disheartened. In retrospect, I think it’s because I’m seeing my failure and overlooking the process… focusing on the results instead of how I achieve them.

I love writing. The thought of not writing fills me with anxiety. I’ve always been better at putting words on paper than in speaking them. How would I express the chaos of unuttered thoughts if not on paper? What would I do with all the story ideas and blog posts if I didn’t let them flow out through my fingertips? Fulfillment comes from the doing, from creative expression, in wrestling thoughts out of the void into a finite place. I’m grateful for the ideas, for the ability to put them into words — however imperfect they may be — for the desire to communicate and the freedom and time to keep trying.

My gratitude prompts thankfulness, which in turn encourages joy to blossom. In those moments when I gather together my efforts and raise cupped hands in a gesture of thankful praise, it is the uplifted hands that are important, not the quality of their less-than-praiseworthy contents.

I have a new work-in-progress that I put aside in favour of revising something older. Lately both have been preempted by a church history project, but it doesn’t matter what I’m working on as long as I approach the task with that attitude of gratitude. There will be joy in the doing.

What small everyday joy will bring thankfulness to your heart today?

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“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving.”

Psalm 69:30

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New Perspectives

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While visiting one of my favourite blogs on Thursday, Susan Atole’s Just… a Moment, I was intrigued by the unusual perspective in her featured photos. She said it was on the High Calling Focus blog that she encountered a challenge to lay on her back for taking photo shots. It was a challenge I couldn’t ignore

This unusual perspective offered design and reflections, glimmers of colours and shapes not previously noticed. The ordinary became extraordinary.

There’s something to be said for lifting our eyes beyond the obvious. If we always look at things from the same perspective, we’re going to keep seeing the same things in the same way. It’s true in life, and it’s true in writing.

I’ve been doing some editing for a friend, and am appalled at how often I’ve found an error in sections already line edited several times. “How could I possibly have missed that?” Every time I read through a chapter on the computer my brain insisted on reading what it expected to find, not necessarily what my eyes were seeing. It wasn’t until I printed the manuscript and read it in the new format that more errors popped out at me. For the final proofing I printed it again, but in a different font, and found still more.

A new perspective provides fresh inspiration when we’re bogged down writing a scene, too. Where do we go when our only idea keeps leading us to a proverbial brick wall? Sometimes we need to take the story on the road … write in a different environment, use different tools, maybe give the scene to a different character.

A different perspective tricks the brain into shifting its thinking. And that new viewpoint may be all that’s needed to stimulate the mind and send it off in a fresh direction.

Besides laying on your back, how might you achieve a new perspective for an existing project? Has a new perspective ever helped you out of a dilemma? 

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Today I’m also talking about Dealing with Transitions at The Pastor’s Wife Speaks Blog. Please click on over and join me there. [I’ve just learned The Pastor’s Wife Speaks blog will be discontinued at the end of November, so this is my last post there.]

How does perspective affect mood in a novel?

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The word perspective has several synonyms including perception, angle, outlook, and viewpoint. Granted, each of them carries a slightly different nuance, but how often do we consider the importance of that when deciding which point of view to use in our stories?

After we decide on the main characters, there is always the question about first, second or third person point of view, and the appropriate tense. Sometimes the decisions are made very offhandedly, as if it doesn’t really matter as long as we choose one and stick with it.

What I’ve been noticing, however, is how the mood of a novel seems to depend on the personality represented by the point of view. Not only does each character have a distinctive personality, but so also does every narrator, and it is reflected in how the story is told.

This idea suggests we should know our characters well before beginning to write – not something that comes easy for me. I tend to develop my characters as I write, knowing them intimately only when I finally reach the conclusion. That might explain why I sometimes end up switching point of view and tense during my revisions. If I did more detailed character studies before I began I wouldn’t have quite so many changes to make later. (I tell myself that constantly, but when a character begs to have his story told I can’t wait to dive in. Does that mean I’m undisciplined? Oh, please don’t tell me that! I have enough problems.)

One of the reasons my first novel has been permanently shelved is because the protagonist is unsympathetic. She’s always discouraged or depressed, and no matter how I rework the chapters, they’re still going to reflect her personality. I’m pretty sure I need to replace her with a stronger, more upbeat character or rewrite the entire story from a different point of view, not something I want to tackle… at least, not yet. I have another cheeky character taunting me with her story.

 What determines how you choose the POV and tense for your stories? How would it affect the tone of your writing if you switched perspective?

 

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The power of perspective

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Perspective is a powerful thing. This weekend we’ve had visitors from Taiwan with us – my brother-in-law and one of his students — and we did a lot of sightseeing around Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. The promised sunshine never made an appearance. Both days were dismally wet and grey, and I often found myself saying, “Oh, I wish you could see this on a sunny day. It’s so much nicer in the sun.”

Sunday afternoon we visited the abbey of a local Benedictine monastery to see its wonderful stained glass windows… the ones I’ve mentioned before, here and here. During the tour I wandered into the gardens and tried to take a few photos, but felt uninspired without sunshine. I knew they would be lifeless and uninteresting. Until I looked closer.

Westminster Abbey Bell Tower

Last week Diana on her Just Wondering blog pondered what we miss when we focus on the wrong thing:

“So, I wonder.
What happens when we focus on one thing in this life,
one thing to the exclusion of others.
In that singular process, I wonder how often is it true that we don’t see
what is right in front of our faces?
That beautiful, deliriously inviting thing
that God is doing just for our benefit;
that gift that’s waiting to be unwrapped and appreciated.”

Reading her words again today made me think of a conversation after church this morning. We were admiring the intricate work on a traditional Paiwan tribal outfit brought from Taiwan, and one woman commented on the lovely woven design.

Except that it wasn’t woven. When we looked closer we could see the design had been painstakingly hand done in fine cross stitch, and bordered by perfect lines of identical shells.

When we focus on the overall, we miss seeing the detail.

That’s a problem I have in my writing, too. It’s easy for me to get hung up on the story as a whole, thinking of what the reader will take from it. With that perspective I miss providing the little details that will enrich the whole and may be the difference between ordinary and spectacular.

Perspective changes everything. In life, faith and writing we see so much more when we take a closer look, or choose a different viewpoint.

Can you think of an example where changing your perspective made a difference? 

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