The last two weeks we talked about point-of-view. This week let's delve into a related topic: character perspective. Equally important, this can be a challenging but also fun choice to make.
Let's say you write a story about a teenage girl who attempts suicide. Your first inclination may be to write it from the girl's perspective. But who else is involved/affected? Potentially several people: parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts/uncles, friends, teachers, classmates, neighbors, doctors/nurses, police offers, EMTs. That's just a start.
Who are these people and why do they care? What could they bring to the story? Good questions. Let's take the mother, a sibling, and a nurse and see what they bring to the table.
The mother: What might the perspective of the mother do for the story? For starters, she's intimately connected and has an emotional stake in the matter. This is her baby. Imagine how she would feel realizing that her daughter is suffering enough to go this far. The mother can also offer a larger family portrait, including insights into the father and the parents' relationship and their relationship with the children. She may give us vital clues as to why things came to this point.
A sibling: Siblings may be closer than parents and children. Or they may be equally distant. However, it's likely he or she would know things about the sister that the parents would not. And there is the affect on them whether good or bad. If you have a sibling, just imagine if they attempted suicide, especially as a teenager. How would you feel?
A nurse: Despite possibly seeing a lot of terrible things, could this case make more of an impression? Absolutely. Such a character could add a lot of objectivity, seeing the family and others associated with the girl from an emotional distance. And such objectivity could add a special meaning and depth to the story, revealing things that might remain hidden with a character closer to the circumstance.
Do you see the possibilities blossoming? Before you decide on character perspective, do some searching. Make a list of the people who are involved or who could be. What is their involvement? What do they know or not know that could serve the story well?
Don't just think about the possibilities, write them. There's no harm in writing a story from more than one perspective. Regardless of who you go with, you've learned a lot more about your characters and the situation. And such knowledge is invaluable to writing a complete story.
So as I am fond of encouraging, explore your options. Don't settle because it's the first idea or the easy idea or the comfortable idea. Give other characters a chance. And give your story a chance to be more.
Let's go with the scenario above. A teenage girl has attempted suicide. It's been discovered and she needs to go to a hospital. In 500 words, write this scene three times from the perspective of
A police officer
Feel free to try it with any of the other possibilities as well. And don't hesitate to come up with your own. Your goal: See how a basic plot might be taken to new heights with different characters.