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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Adjust Your Mirrors

Writing Road Trip | Lisa Bullard | Adjust Your MirrorsYou get a different view of the road behind you depending on which of your car’s mirrors you look into.

And writers can direct readers to a different outlook on their story depending on which point of view they use as the “mirror” for the events that take place.

I’ve found that point of view is a tricky thing for many writers, whether they’ve been at the writing game for five months or twenty-five years. It’s all too easy to unconsciously slip from an outside narrator (the third person “she”) to an inside narrator (first person “I”), or to “head-hop” from the inside of one character’s head to another.

As with so many other areas of the writing craft, repeated practice is one of the best ways to avoid these mistakes. One simple exercise is to have your students try their hand at writing the same scene multiple times, but deliberately and thoughtfully shifting point of view each time. Ask them to write a scene in which one student is bullying another. The first time through, have them write the scene using third person—one of the most common points of view (“Kurt was walking down the hall, minding his own business, when Big Mike suddenly shoved him into a locker.”)

Then have your students write the scene in first person—another common point of view—from the perspective of the student who is being bullied. (“I was walking down the hall, feeling pretty proud about the ‘A’ I’d just gotten on my math test, and bam! Out of nowhere, my face was crushed against a locker.”)

Finally, you can add a third round: have them try the scene again in first person point of view but, this time, from the bully’s perspective. (“I was really mad because I flunked that math test and then I noticed this kid from my class who goes around acting like he’s smarter than all the rest of us. I couldn’t help it, I just had to teach that kid a lesson, so I gave him a little tiny push.”)

By deliberately choosing to switch the point of view or the perspective character, young writers will learn some of the nuances that go into each of these choices—they’ll learn, in other words, how to adjust their story’s mirror.

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