Change the Perspective of Your Characters

When I began developing my characters for my Emily Stone Series, I found it quite helpful to outline the main characters from various perspectives.  Sometimes with recurring characters, a scene might become flat and you’re not sure why.  When you look at a specific character from another character’s perspective or a different point of view, sometimes an amazing epiphany takes place.

Some helpful writing exercises to change the perspective of a scene or character:

  • Write from first person or even the present tense.
  • Write from another character’s point of view and in a completely different setting.
  • Write from a reporter’s point of view or reader’s point of view.
  • Write from an animal’s point of view.
  • Write as if the character only has a moment to live.

It helps me to build characters with more depth and to answer various questions about their personalities instead of just a list of traits, likes, dislikes, and internal/external conflicts.

How would a certain character handle a situation or if the roles were reversed?

This idea came to light when I was visiting the Santa Barbara Zoo in California on a trip.  This wonderful, small zoo located in the heart of Santa Barbara has always been an enjoyable visit for me.  This beautiful 30-acre, 500 animal zoo is one of my favorite attractions and I always try to make the time to have a casual lunch there and then walk around the park.  It makes for a nice leisurely couple of hours and I highly recommend it if you get a chance to visit.

One particular exhibit made an impression on me and I actually changed the way I develop my characters as a result.  As I walked down to the gorilla exhibit, I made my way to the observation room that has a plexiglass wall to allow visitors to view the gorilla habitat. 

There were about two-dozen people crowded in the room craning their heads to view the gorillas.  I stood in the back and I could see a couple of gorillas that were trying to go about their day eating and staying a bit hidden from view, ignoring all of the human faces pressed up against the glass that were waving and giggling.

It suddenly struck me. 

What must it be like to be scrutinized through this window?  What’s their perspective of us?  How would we feel if their roles were reversed?      

Finally, everyone filtered out of the observation room and I was alone to view one of the magnificent creatures.  I moved toward the glass and I instantly felt an awe that I was able to be close to these animals that should have been in deepest jungles instead of on a stage just for human entertainment. 

This particular gorilla moved toward the glass with a banana.  He actually walked right up to the glass and shyly looked at me and then continued with his afternoon treat.  It was an incredible experience for me.  I was able to snap a quick photo without a flash or zoom to document my new writing discovery.

You could say that incident was one of my light bulb moments in writing.  From that point, I decided to outline my characters from all different perspectives and conditions to help to develop them further in my stories. 

I strongly feel that by changing the perspective of characters during the creative process you can delve deeper into their psychology and ultimately give them more depth in the story and for readers to enjoy.

How would you change your character’s perspectives?

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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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