Welcome once again, writers, to another installment of Being a Better Writer. Alas, this is not “fresh” in the sense that it was written by my hand on this day, but once more from the past. I’m currently out of the office, and this post was prepared in advance. Which means there’s no real news but what was from several weeks ago.
Okay, well, there is a chance that I’ll be back next week, according to the schedule I’ve gotten my hands on. I hope that holds up, because I really want to be working on Axtara – Magic and Mayhem.
Anyway, that’s literally all there is news-wise: Just me hoping I’m back. So without further beating around the bush, let’s just dive into today’s topic!
Okay, I realize some of you might look at this and sort of go “Huh?” a little. But I think if we polled those making that response, we’d find two very different causes.
One would be, of course, people who saw the title and nodded, going “Yeah, that makes sense. I guess we’re talking about this today.” But the other half? They’d be the people who saw this title and went “What? What does that mean?”
This post has its roots in that sort of response. Long ago, when I was working on my third book (which actually released as my fourth, and was the fantastically received Sci-Fi adventure Colony, you should go read it) I was “quizzed” by someone who, for whatever reason, wanted me to “prove” that I was an author in an IRL (in real life) conversation. They waved their hand at the surroundings around us and declared ‘Well, prove it and describe this scene around us!’
Yeah, people really do this. People are weird. Anyway, I retorted with “As who?”
This question baffled them. Their response, which I don’t recall word for word, was ‘That doesn’t matter, a description is just a description! Just describe the scene!’
To which I tried to explain that depending on who was looking at said scene, the description would be different, as each person/character would notice and fixate on different things. To which this interrogator grew upset, arguing that this ‘made no sense’ and that it should just be a description of the scene, like what they personally saw, and I obviously was not an author and didn’t know what I was talking about. Offering several descriptions of the scene from the viewpoint of different characters just made them more unhappy, as they argued that each character was “wrong” for thinking of things a certain way or noticing/not paying attention to certain aspects of our surroundings.
It was … a frustrating experience, certainly. But at the same time, it was enlightening. To some, there is simply the viewpoint that their view is all there is and will ever be, and other viewpoints are just “wrong.”
Do I disagree with that? Most certainly. However, I have also read books for which this sort of viewpoint seems to hold true, books in which each character’s view of the world is identical to another. And I don’t mean “view of the world” in a sense of opinions or stances on ruling powers or ethics. I mean “view of the world” as in what they physically see. How they take in the setting around them, and what they will notice and act on first.
I’ve read books where if you took any moment of scenery and put it up against another from another character, there would be no way to tell one from the other. Not because the book used a narrator that had a voice of their own, but because the character’s viewpoints and personality were not reflected in the way they observed the world around them.
And that … I think that’s a misstep. So hit the jump, and let’s talk about how we can avoid making the same mistake.Continue reading