Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Difference in Perception

Today's blog is a strange one.  My wife asked me to write two paragraphs of description on our bedroom.  In her post, she talks about how the same approach is taken to describing a scene for the same characters.  It is an understandable peeve.  Multiple perspectives will bring about multiple areas of focus.  Anyway, because I'm shoehorning this entry to make the two paragraphs relevant for her blog and mine, I'm going to talk about perspectives.

Take a moment to think back to a time when you did something.  This something might have been a haircut, cleaning a room, or your normal work at your job.  When you looked at what you had accomplished, you saw it one way.  Now, think of that something and think of the reactions that others had to this thing.  I bet you can identify times when a loved one or friend didn't notice the haircut.  I bet you can identify a time the room cleaning was either not recognized or seen as not significant.  I'm willing to bet that you can identify a time that your hard work at your job was met with negative feedback.

Different people have different perspectives.  When I clean the desk here, I put a lot of time into it.  There is a lot of little clutter and finding a home for that clutter can be time consuming.  So when I announce I cleaned, for me, I see the effort I put into cleaning.  Alice, however, sees that the mess on the floor is still there, the floor hasn't been vacuumed, and that my shoes are next to the television stand.

When writing a scene, remember who your perspective character is.  A character that is a bit paranoid, alert, and on the look out for danger isn't going to notice that the books are arranged flush to the shelves.  He is going to notice that the arrangement of the bookshelves provide possible dark corners.  He won't notice the details, only the possible dangers.  So, when you approach a scene, remind yourself who your character is and what his mindset is at the time of describing the scene.  This will give you two, very different descriptions.

As promised, here is my description of the bedroom.  If you want to read Alice's blog post with her perception of the room, you can click on here.

The room is both spacious and cramped.  My dresser is small and barely fits the clothing I own.  I can't buy new clothes without having to get rid of the something else first.  The pile growing on top, the one that obstructs my clock from all angles but in bed, is a result of my resistance to find sacrifices.  The closet, if I opened it, would assault me with clutter that fills the bottom.  I find the space impractical, and yet I have freedom of movement.  I can make my way around the bed if I choose and access my side without that cramped feeling.  Yet, I'd love to have a dresser just a bit wider, deeper, and taller.  I'd love to get the clothes put away.

The window has the curtains drawn and shades down when it is in use and is opened when the room is empty.  Not that this makes a bit of difference, the view of the water tower outside is hardly scenic.  The only true scenery offered by the bedroom are the numerous photos, posters, and art depicting different places.  The art represents everything from Boston to Machias to Asheville.  Perhaps it is these gateways that open up the room to give it that spacious feel, or maybe it is simply knowing that our king-sized, wire-frame bed fits in this room that makes me feel like it offers everything I could want.  That is, so long as the closet door remains shut.


  1. This is a great post, Josh. And very on the nose. Different points of view are some of the best ways to tell a well rounded story. It's very timely as well...since I'm living in editing hell and 2nd guessing everything I do when it comes to POV.

  2. Perception and perspective are always a big thing for me. One thing that is often neglected in writing with multiple perspective characters is having Characters A and B witnessing the same events and both walking away with something different. Often times a group of characters all agree on what they observed.