Wednesday, January 30

Living (and Writing) in a World of Perception

When I was fifteen I leased a pony for a year so I could show her.  I had been riding her for a couple years before, but you had to lease to show.  She was a cute little thing--medium brown, white socks and stockings, a big white blaze, the shaggiest, fluffiest little mane and tail, and a hard to see white splotch on her tummy.  The woman who owned her had rescued her, and when she first laid eyes on her standing at the top of a hill in the distance, she thought, "Look at that Clydesdale..." and then the little pony came galloping down the hill up to the fence and she saw that, in fact, the Clydesdale was not so much eighteen hands as just thirteen.  Perspective is amazing.

Throughout the earning of my psych degree my fascination with perspective grew.  We are products of our perceptions, we live within them, grow based upon them, and relate to people as our perspectives either meld or clash.  And have you ever tried to explain your perspective to someone when it clashed with theirs?  Oh man.  You know, the person who clings so hard to their beliefs that their knuckles turn white and their face turns purple, and they start to hate you for trying to show them anything other than what they already know?

Now, this may just be my perception, but as readers and writers, I think we generally tend to be more open-minded.  We read in order to understand other perspectives, to experience what we might never have had the opportunity--or may have been so blessed as to never had--to experience.  What I'm wondering, is how often do writers set out to change perspectives, or does it just happen sometimes?

The first original story I ever really intended to finish--the one that's closest to being complete--explores the story of a girl who is bullied in school for being gay, but when she comes home, she is bullied just as much by her religious parents.  She ends up running away from home.  I started this book over three years ago, but I keep coming back to it adding some more, editing, intending to finish it.  Even if I never try to publish it, I feel compelled to write it.  To complete her story.  To share it with someone, anyone, who might relate or feel less alone by reading it.  I didn't start writing it because I wanted to change anyone's perceptions, but because once it was in my head I felt compelled to tell it.

Do you ever write to enlighten a potential reader to a new perspective?  Have you ever read something that changed something you thought or believed?


  1. I don't think I intentionally try to influence perception, but I do come through in my writing, sometimes hoping to shed light on something. Like Kahlotus Disposal Site and the reality of some mental illnesses... In Shot in the Light I include some 'shedding light on' the hypocrisy of many who would see themselves as charitable, but are judgmental about it... MORE often I like to play with perception by showing the reader enough to have one perception of a character, and then giving them an aha moment that shows them WHY so they suddenly realize their initial perception was faulty. (think of what Jo does in HBP with Draco... Harry is sure he's evil, but in reality he is terrified and trying to save his family) I guess the only perception lesson there is 'don't judge until you know the whole story' but that feels more 'in bounds' for how we influence readers than some other things. I think ANY book that shares a reality for a character from a group most people don't understand though, is good.

  2. So far, I don't feel I've put any lessons in my writing, but then maybe I've done it accidentally. Non-fiction, on the other hand...

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  3. I've never thought of this way before, but you're right. I'm probably more open to different perspectives now as both a reader and writer of fiction than I was before. As a writer, I try to show the multiple perspectives of an issue and not just the one. This leads to a more well rounded story. I hope. :)

  4. Tami--I like that only showing them part of the story piece of perception also. Speaking of Draco and Harry... I don't know if it's true, but did you see the thing that says there was a take at the end of the DH2 movie where upon seeing Harry's alive Draco yells, "Potter!" and runs back to the Hogwarts side away from his parents? LOVE IT.

    Shannon--I don't usually intend to either, but I'm sure we do regardless, even if it's just little life lessons. : ]

    Stina--Showing multiple perspectives probably does lead to a more well rounded story, and probably opens the story up to a wider audience, as opposed to focusing on one point of view.

  5. I don't intentionally put anything into my writing either. I just want readers to sit back and enjoy. Though I'm sure I've slipped little things in. Yet I try to write characters with all sorts of perceptions. I do agree that we as writers are more open to change. I'm fascinated by how people see things and how they came to see them that way.

  6. Yes, the how they came to their perceptions is sometimes even more fascinating than what their perceptions are! I like to write characters with lots of different perspectives, too. I think it's more fun for us as writers AND for our readers.


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