This week’s exercise is all about perspective and viewpoints. As writers you’ll find yourself using the same viewpoints again and again. Its just what we’re comfortable with. Some writers will use first person ‘I’ to give a sense of familiarity with the character. We are able to really delve into the characters thoughts and emotions. Others will use the third person , i.e. he/she/they. The third person perspective can be rather distancing and can allow us to see whats happening across the world without it feeling strange.
But perspective isn’t just about the narrative voice (that just means the voice you write with), its also about using different types of characters, or positions. We’re used to writing what we know, so if we position ourselves on the political left, we will most likely end up writing from that perspective too. But this can mean that we aren’t fully engaging with the debate or issues. If you’re writing fiction, it is really important to get into another person’s head. It helps when your writing plot, when you’re thinking of twists in the story, even when you’re thinking about the dialogue. You need to be able to take up a different perspective and write with it.
In real life (outside of writing) this skill is commonly known as empathy. Empathy in general is great, it can help with providing you a broader understanding of the world and the people in it.
This week, we’re going to shift your perspectives in three different ways.
giving life to objects
Choose an inanimate object, such as a tree or a cup. Prepare for the exercise by looking at images of the object or the object itself. Really study it. Then write a list of things that could be potential concerns for the object. For example, a cup might be uncomfortable if it’s left unwashed for a while. Think about what kind of personality this object would have if it were sentient i.e. able to think and have emotions. Then, spend a few minutes cultivating a voice for this object. You can do this by speaking loudly, putting on an accent or changing the range of your voice as if you were the object. You can record this too so you can listen back. Now that you’re warmed up, write a poem from this object’s perceptive. The main goal is to find the object’s voice and personality. Don’t be afraid to use humour. Making objects talk is hilarious.
writing outside your culture
Getting inside the mindset of a culture other than your own can be difficult. For this exercise, choose a culture you’re not overly familiar with. This can be a sub-culture within your own region (maybe you’re a sporty person writing as a harry potter fanatic) or you can choose a culture from another nation or one from history. Give yourself one hour to read about this culture or watch a documentary about it, and then write a poem from your own perspective but from within the culture you’re writing about. Take a positive angle on the culture you’re writing about, even if you find it strange or if you don’t quite understand it.
writing from inside the villain’s head
This exercise is about getting inside the mind of someone you don’t like. Maybe they’re an enemy or just someone you don’t get on with. It could be a mean boss you once worked for. It could be someone you feel animosity toward because they’ve hurt you or a loved one or because they have an opposing worldview that you think is detrimental to society. It doesn’t even have to be a real person. You can make someone up! Choose a topic this person would care about (if it’s your childhood bully, maybe it’s about why this person picked on other children) and write about that topic from that person’s perspective. Explore why they do what they do, and if possible, try to find the positive. And remember: a villain is the hero of his or her own story.
If you try any of these poetry writing exercises, leave a comment and let us know how it worked out for you, and keep writing!