A change of perspective

Maggie Stiefvater is holding a contest on her blog where she’s giving away a huge stack of books that she’s done with. As a book junkie (and because I see many in that pile that I would love to read and/or own) I’m participating. The challenge? Pick your favourite blog post from her blog and mention it on your own blog or blog-like internet space.

I spent some time browsing through her archives, being only a recent follower of her blog, and found a few that were interesting. I was almost decided on writing about this post on starting to write a novel. It’s less about what you should write on the page and more about the process of starting.

I found this of some interest because having just finished 619 and set it aside to steep, I’ve found a new idea sidling quietly up to my muse and offering her a shy smile. Said idea may be quiet, but also patient, and has been standing beside my muse watching the words go by as it waits its turn. Very Canadian-like. I’ve been pretty busy, but I’ve tried to spare a moment here and there to make conversation with the idea, to let it know I’m interested and if it would be so kind as to wait patiently while I take care of these other few things, I’ll return in a few moments. But the bits of conversation I’ve had have been interesting.

So I’ve been contemplating the start of another novel, but thinking that, unlike 619 which was pretty well outlined before I started writing, I’d be likely to pants this next one the same way I pantsed Magestone. Except I’m feeling all nervous about pantsing again; I keep having to remind myself that when I started typing the first chapter of Magestone I didn’t know anything more than the first chapter and a rough idea of the central conflict and final climax/conclusion. I didn’t know what would happen in chapter 4, much less 12 or 20. I didn’t know anything about the second thread of conflict that became the main conflict of the novel, nor did I know that what I thought was the climax of a standalone was actually the conclusion of book three of a trilogy. So I have no reason to be worried.

But I still felt nervous… until I read that post by Maggie. And for some reason, I found it very reassuring. It was like a packing list prior to going on a trip: you may not know what you’re going to experience on the trip, but as long as you know your destination, and you plan a little bit and pack the things that you might possibly need, you should be prepared for whatever you encounter on the way and you won’t get lost.

So that was the frontrunner for which of her blog posts I’d write about. But then I discovered this post entitled More Wind, Less Snow, which is ostensibly about adjusting the perspective and details when revising in order to create a certain mood. I think there’s that in that post, but that wasn’t what really grabbed me about it.

She has written a very short scenelet, probably like 200 words, three times. Each time the central event(s) is the same, but she changes the details in each in order to adjust for mood. And she also changes the perspective. Version one doesn’t really cover the exact same window of time, but versions two and three do, except as perceived from each of the two characters’ POVs. What I found most fascinating about this was just how much that simple shift in perspective changed the story. Understanding the thoughts and emotions of the viewpoint character as the events unfold.

She writes, "The events — the plot — they’re important, yes, as a spine of sorts, but really, it’s the way you tell the event that makes the difference in the long run. That’s what carries emotional impact to the reader." And it’s true – the scene, a car crash, has very different emotional impacts between the two presentations, based on whose eyes we’re viewing it from.

All my stories have been tight POVs, with my most recent ones being first-person, so there isn’t much opportunity for changing the perspective. But even with that, it really highlights just how coloured the story is by the POV-character’s lens, and how much this will affect the story you’re telling. Go read the post(s); I hope you’ll find it fascinating too.

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