I love the way storytellers today pull us into the perspective of different characters. From George R R Martin with The Game of Thrones to Maggie Stiefvater in The Scorpio Races, the author shifts perspective from one main character to another, in different chapters, letting us see events through different people’s eyes. While shifts in point of view mid-scene are confusing, turning the story like a crystal in sunlight sheds light on what would otherwise remain a mystery.
The narrative style that puts us into the skin of only one character shows what the events mean to that person. We understand how this person is affected by what happens, what they fear and the nature of their dreams. When we can see the same landscape from the perspective of another person’s dreams and fears, the texture is deepened, and we travel into corners of the terrain we would not otherwise enter.
Because each person carries different baggage, has their own set of commitments, standing at their shoulder lets the reader explore their investment in the events. The storyteller shifts the colours on the rubiks cube for us.
Especially powerful are the moments we are placed inside the skin of a character we do not like. Don’t get me wrong: I do not want to be made to feel and think with someone truly evil. But there are people who put me off, folks in the story I find obnoxious. Making me understand the texture of their reality by placing me where I can see what they see balances the way I cheer for the heroine or hero, broadens my sense of what is really at stake.
As an author, we can let the reader do all the work, make them imagine the story from different perspectives for themselves. But if we as the storyteller have never seen the events from the perspective of more than our main character, the secondary people will be shallow, empty of deeper dreams and thoughts. It is useful to write some parts of the story from the perspective of other characters even if we never put them in the book.
And, forgive me the digression into life: although we can never see from another person’s perspective, imagining what they see in the crystal of life, what they dream of for the tapestry they are weaving, deepens our compassion for them and teaches the limitations of our vision.
Whether we all like this style of writing or not, stories and lives are more like a crystal turning slowly in a beam of light than a paved highway or a brick wall.