Context and Perspective Matter

Earlier this week I went to lunch with fifteen other writers, thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of Ethel Lee-Miller. It was great fun. Someone brought up the topic of point of view. One person suggested that point of view can be demonstrated through a character’s actions and movements. So true and so helpful. Characters also see life from different perspectives.

On a research trip to North Idaho some time back, I considered the different ways my characters would see the images (1)countryside. One character might see the color starting to turn on the deciduous trees, another the slash piles amongst the pines, another the golden, harvested wheat fields between the trees, another the lone parking space at a roadhouse next to the highway.

Later that day we went to a posh restaurant in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, at the recommendation of a nice man at the Visitor Center. “Ask for the daily special,” he said. “You’ll get a discount, and the views are terrific from the 7th floor.”

The view of the lake was indeed terrific. So was the wine list, and the menu looked enticing. Our server was welcoming and friendly. Until we asked for the “specials.” “Yeah,” it’s on the menu. “Fish and chips, $8.95.”

We looked at the menu. For the regular price of $11.95, it’s called halibut tempura, until you ask for the lunch special, when it becomes good old fish and chips. Talk about different perspectives.

What about context? Consider this: since we decided to move to Tucson, I have been overwhelmed by all the clutter my husband and I have accumulated throughout (and before) our marriage. When I passed a bus bench advertisement for Mr. Pack Rat, I thought I’d found the answer to my clutter problem. Turns out, he runs an exterminating service!pack rat2

From my point of view, pack rats meant clutter, from someone else’s, a pest. Both need elimination, but the methods might vary.pack rat

Readers may also be coming at your work from a different frame of reference than yours, so it’s important to consider that when editing. It’s also why good critique partners can be helpful (“When I read this, I thought you meant … and it took me a while to figure out you didn’t.”)

How about you, readers? Has anything hit you recently that you took out of context, or looked at from a unique perspective?