As writers, we hear a lot about perspective. It’s how we write books. It’s the core of what we do. So how often do we step back and analyze what is really going on in individuals’ perspective in real life? How do the people around us perceive things and how can knowing more about that help our writing? Delving into the minds of our friends and family can be very interesting and very scary all at the same time.
There’s a new fad going around, actually it was a couple of weeks ago and it may have run its course. Folks were putting together four to eight pictures around a common theme with captions of this is what society sees, this is what my mom thinks…this is what I think I do…and this is what I really do. Each of these pictures was vastly different and in many cases were accurate for the perspective that was being portrayed. I thought about putting together one of those pictures for falconers, but one appeared before I found time in my writing schedule to get it done, and it was very similar to what I had thought to do, telling me that the person who put it together had a perspective very similar to my own.
Using the theme of falconry is a good way to show perspective because it is something that not many people understand, but a fair number have an opinion on. A few months ago, I received a DM from some writer I’d followed on twitter asking me to unfollow her because I was a falconer and she thought it was a form of animal abuse. Now, I’ve heard of falconers abusing their animals, just like I have heard of regular pet owners abusing their pets, and people abusing each other. You can’t paint everyone with the same brush. The odds are in this woman’s mind we tie our birds down, starve them and don’t allow them to be birds. For me at least this is very far from true. My birds have all had the good life. If the weather gets extreme, they get brought into the house. If they don’t have a successful hunt when we go out, they get to eat anyway. If something disastrous happens, they get to go to the vet. And if they appear unhappy, they get to go back to the wild. That’s what any responsible falconer should be doing. On the other extreme some people perceive falconry as a sport of pageantry as depicted in medieval tapestries and stories. Boy, sometimes when the snow is blowing and the bunnies are hiding too well and the bird gets pissy about the situation, I wish we had all the pageantry of old. Truth is it can be cold, wet, stickery, (ask my friend Chuck who had to go to the hospital after getting a hand full of cactus while trying to help his bird subdue a jack rabbit) and sometimes just downright miserable. We do it for the love of the birds. I personally don’t know any falconer who doesn’t love their birds. But I’m in the sport/lifestyle and I have an insider’s perspective.
Sometimes, getting into the heads of the people around us to try and figure out why they act a certain way helps us become better writers. I look at the woman who dislikes falconry. The odds are she’s just seen things on TV, in print, and so on, that show what the person wanted to see. Or she may be one of these people who thinks all dogs, cats, horses, cows and raptors must be free, any animal that is not running wild is abused. Can I get inside her head? Can I understand her angle? Would she make a good, fully formed character in a story? As a writer these are things I need to ask myself, and in doing so, hopefully open myself up to more ideas in the future.
Every person thinks that their action is the right thing to do when they are doing it. In their perspective they are acting for the better. Sometimes as outsiders, we stop and wonder what motivates a person to do what they are doing. Finding that motivation, can be extremely hard. We have to step outside of our comfort zones and work to create interesting points of view. Only by doing that can we create characters that go beyond the standard cardboard characters that we see every day in print and on the screen. Dig in and figure out the perspective of people. Figure out why they do the things they do.
Start with your fami8ly, friends and neighbors. Why do they do what they do? What forces shaped them in the people they are today? Do you need to talk to them and find out who they really are? Can you figure it out without digging? Normally we need to dig a bit to really figure people out, to bring their character to life. Why is she a bitch? Is there a reason he freaks out in traffic? Why is her hair red when her eyebrows are blonde? Is there a story behind the baseball cap he’s always wearing? Finding out things like this about people you know can help you shape the people on your pages. The better you know people, the better you can write them and make them intriguing.
Details, our readers are always looking for details, moving outside our own perspectives and looking at other people’s help us to bring things to greater life. Get out there and add more details, details that may be counter to what you are used to experiencing. Try and see why someone might hate something you love. Reading changes people’s lives. Maybe by creatively shaping a character, you can help shape a reader’s perspective and bring them a new way of seeing the world.