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Understanding Perspective as a Writer

Updated on December 11, 2016
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Rebecca Graf is an experienced writer with nearly a decade of writing experience with degrees in accounting, history and creative writing.

As an author, it is important to understand perspective. It can drive a story down many different paths. The same events can be related, but when told from different perspectives, the events can completely change. Perspective drives a story, relationships, and the future.

What is Perspective?

When it comes to defining anything, I first go to Webster. According to this source, perspective is “the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed…the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance...a mental view.” It is the window you look through.

Why is it important? Because it is very powerful.

The Power of Perspective

Explaining the power of perspective is hard. You really have to have vivid examples to understand it. So let me give you one or two from my own life.

Person A sees me struggling in the kitchen getting dinner ready while taking care of kids. She comes in and volunteers to help with the mashed potatoes. The next day she explains to her coworkers how she had to teach me how to make mashed potatoes. Her perception was that since she had to help me I didn’t know what I was doing. My perception was that I only had two hands.

Person B finds two incidents where I coded a transaction wrong. They were unique and rarely happen that way. When the issue arose, the mistake was pointed out. The next day I was called into a superior’s office because I continually make the same mistakes and don’t fix them. Her perception was that I never do it right. My perception was that it just happened and I wasn’t given the chance to do it right.

See how perception can change the picture? History is a plethora of examples. For example, Lucretia Borgia is known as a murderous siren. The truth is that she was a pawn of her powerful father and probably committed no crimes. The perception of her father’s enemies was strong enough to endure hundreds of years of scandal.

How to Use in a Story

With using perspective in your writing, you have a tool that you can influence your readers. Want a character to be hated? You can achieve that by using the perspective of a character who already hates the one in question. Want a character to be sympathized with? Do the same thing.

Think about it this way. How is your opinion formed of someone you have never met? Your coworker’s brother is mean and nasty in your mind from what your coworker has told you. The coworker’s perspective has been presented to you and is the only source of information you have. When you meet the brother, you discover that in reality he is kind of nice. The perspective was so powerful that you already disliked the guy before you met him. That is power.

Use that in your story. Create the feelings you want your readers to feel through perspective.

Use the Voice

The point of a view in a story is the main way that you can create perspective. If you see through the eyes of one character, you can force the reader to see everything through their perspective. After all, the reader cannot see any other perspective. They have to take what the narrator says as fact.

Point of view is powerful. That is how you can take a reader down certain paths. Use that tool and learn its power. Why do we see Draco as a mean child? Because we are seeing the world through Harry Potter's eyes. If we were seeing it through Draco's, we might hate Harry and actually cheer for his demise. It is all about perception.

Be Careful

Since this is a powerful tool, you need to be careful in how you wield it. Think of what you want the reader to see. Create a world where they see exactly what you want. If you want to drop hints that the perception is wrong, make sure they can be seen by the reader but not by the character. You have to be subtle and sly when it comes to helping the reader see beyond the POV.

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