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The Hidden Treasures of Switching Points of View

Today I read a short publication where the author re-wrote a scene from her novel in another character’s point of view. It’s the first time I really wanted to read a re-write, maybe because it was just a scene. I remember when Stephanie Meyer was going to rewrite the entire book Twilightthrough Edward’s perspective. I didn’t really feel an interest in it, but I am not one who re-reads books either.

As a writer, I spend a lot of time deciding on a point of view. In fact, I was writing a novel once and it just wasn’t coming together. Then, on a reader’s idea, I switched the point of view and everything opened up. Think how different Silence of the Lambs would be from Hannibal’s perspective—maybe good and bad. Or what about The Wizard of Oz from the Lion’s perspective? The entire story could change while the events stay the same. They’ve done a few movies to showcase this. The only one I can think of at the moment is Crash, but there are others. The thing to consider is if the story is stronger in one point of view as opposed to another. If it’s a murder investigation and the character is a bystander who doesn’t have access to evidence…well, that could be incredibly boring.

I think readers, and publishers for that matter, would think switching points of view would be easy for writers. After all, we are supposed to know our characters better than any reader. We should know their fear, their conflict, the desires that push them forward. But the switch is still hard. How would the situation be different through another’s eyes? What are their responses? What revelations would be made that were unavailable before? And, more importantly, why did they react the way they did–remembering you can’t change the events already written?

I think it would be a good exercise, especially while in a writer’s block, to re-write a scene in another perspective. After all, the characters I know the best are the ones who control the viewpoint. It is their thoughts I record and their feelings I project. Who knows what hidden treasures may arise from switching perspective…if only for my own background benefit.