When Jennifer Gilmore published her first novel, Golden Country, in 2006, it was kind of a big deal to people like the New York Times (they named it a Notable Book) and the Los Angeles Times (who named it a finalist for their Book Prize). In 2010, her second book, Something Red, was released–and was also named a New York Times Notable Book. If that’s not enough, she writes regularly for pubs like Allure, the Los Angeles Times, Salon, and the Washington Post. So you’ll forgive us for feeling pretty giddy to have her contributing today’s Figment Daily Theme!
To get us primed to focus on perspective and point of view, Jennifer starts us off with a story of her own…
Figment Daily Theme–May 10, 2012
This is an exercise about point of view and perspective, which though they feed one another are not the same thing.
I work in an office/closet on the top of a brownstone in an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, and I was daydreaming, looking out on my street in the very early morning. When the window is open you can hear everything–the old people gossiping, kids crying, dogs barking. It was before 7 a.m. and a woman walked by, clearly dressed from the evening before. She had a good deal of makeup on, ripped stockings, high-heeled sandals, a short skirt: not really 7 a.m. Tuesday attire. Quite suddenly, she sort of wilted, and just fell to the ground.
I heard all this commotion. I heard the neighbors talking. I heard people call 911. And I had my own thoughts too. I watched the scene unfold and the ambulance come and get her.
And then the block was quiet again, with the usual sounds of waking.
I thought this young woman was someone coming from a night of what I hoped was fun. She was heading home to shower and get ready for work.
The neighborhood women disapproved. What was she even doing on our block, dressed in her short skirt and with dark eyes? Tsk, they said, shaking their heads.
When the ambulance came, to the EMTs she was just a body. The body was lifted onto a gurney. The body was hoisted into the ambulance. The body was driven away.
These are all wildly differing perspectives.
Here’s the exercise:
Using the same POV–first person, third person, whatever you choose–write a piece that centers around a single moment from three different perspectives. Each perspective offers new information for the reader to understand what has happened. Each perspective sheds more light on the moment while also revealing more about the character. How can the reader see what has happened clearly? What does seeing it clearly mean? How can the reader know where these characters are coming from? What has informed the way they see this event?
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