Sunday, June 21, 2009

Visual Writing Prompt: 6-21-09

Today’s prompt is about seeing things in a different light.

Sometimes, in order to see things differently, we have to step outside of ourselves. We’re five-foot-seven, but our character is six-foot-seven. He sees things differently. We have to try to put ourselves at his height and see what he sees.

Sometimes it’s not so much the level at which the character sees, but what her focus would be. I could look at a room and see things like the lamp shade color or the dust on the coffee table or the artful arrangement of the furniture. A child could look at the same room and see the toy tucked under the coffee table.

It could be a matter of perception. One person enters a room and notices the warmth of the red walls. Another perceives the red as cold and foreboding.

As a writer, you have to “be” your characters. You have to know how they think and see what they see. I have a friend who’s a lifelong fan of the Texas Aggies. He hates orange (University of Texas). Even his girlfriend knows not to wear orange or anything even remotely related to the color. (And in case you’re wondering, he’s a sweetheart in all other aspects.)

You also have to consider the time of day. A woman who enters her empty house at three in the afternoon may feel differently than when she enters that empty house at midnight. It’s not just women. We all see things differently in bright light than we do in dark or waning light.

Take this picture as an example. What do you see in this picture I took a couple of years ago while in South Carolina as the sun was setting? What do you think you don’t see that you would see in the bright daylight?
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  1. Oh! Probably dolphins! Everytime I visit Charleston, I see dolphins during the day.

    You are correct! Unless our character is ourself, that person will see things differently. Especially if POV is from the opposite gender.

    L. Diane Wolfe

  2. Not fair! I didn't see any dolphins. Didn't even know to go look for some. Wow.

  3. Definitely a great post, Helen. As usual, you make some fantastic points about how important it is to step outside ourselves when writing. Even if we've modeled a character after ourselves in some fashion or another, those characters are not who we are. I know a lot of teen writers get confused on this level. Years ago I worked on a massive fanfiction site for teens, one of the first of its kind, and so many young people made the mistake of writing themselves into the story instead of creating a unique character in their own likeness and giving her/him a unique adventure. It made the writing stale and really turned into a huge project about the writer, rather than the characters.

    The Goblin Market is Coming

  4. What an excellent prompt! Can be taken in so many ways, it's almost bound to get the creative juices running.

  5. Great example, Jenny. If we pattern a character after ourselves, we limit the character.

  6. This post really got me thinking. Perspective is not just for our characters. It's for our lives. How often I forget that others see things differently than I do and that doesn't make something right or wrong.
    Karen Walker

  7. In my mind's eye, your beautiful photo conjures up images of a series of six collages I did based on the first cross-county trip I took with my husband-to-be back in 1974. Every night at sunset, no matter where we were, I took a snapshot of the sky, which I later translated into collages.

    We've been married for 34 years now, and I've been meaning to unearth those collages from the basement and hang them over the bed. Your post helps motivate me to do so! Thanks for the inspiration.

    Julie Lomoe
    Julie Lomoe's Musings Mysterioso

  8. We certainly do see things from different perspectives. What you said about a child seeing a toy under the table reminds me of spending time with my grandsons and the things they see and delight in that we grownups don't notice or take for granted. Thanks for sharing the great post and photo!

  9. Good post and points. The photo - well in the birght of day you'd see much more color in the landscape, for one.

    Hey Helen I got a new blog started up after the Google fiasco. Still under construction, but it's up. :)

    The Old Silly

  10. What a great idea for a collage, Julie.

    Glad to hear you're back up Marvin!

  11. That's all great advice, Helen. As writers, I think that we tend to forget to put ourselves in our characters shoes to see things from their perspective.


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