Post by Jerry
I see you. I see the world around us and write what I see into the voices of my characters. To you, dear reader, I hope they will convey the passing canvas of life.
But wait. Without thinking, my characters have blindly juxtaposed my vision on yours. You see, I am 5'11". Like most humans my eyes lie halfway between crown and chin on my face, just 5'5" off the ground. Unless I’m careful, all my characters see and interpret their world, real or imagined, as seen from 5'5". How crashingly dull.
What if your character is taller than most? Career diplomats average three inches taller than the rest of us. Height commands influence. Is your taller character dominant? Or a woman who, at 6'1", starred on her college volleyball team. Many men are intimidated if they must look up for eye contact with a woman. I know I am. Are your taller heroine’s relationships affected by her height?
Got a character in a wheel chair? The average woman (5'5") in an average wheel chair sees her world from about 42 inches. Take a knee and look around before writing her into your piece. She might notice hands more acutely; finger twitches, chewed nails, fresh scars, rings. They are, after all, right in front of her eyes. She might also detect a belt-level glint of gun metal hidden by a sports coat quicker than her friend standing nearby.
Here’s a fun little writing assignment. Try three hundred creative words from the perspective of a two-year old in a stroller (eyes at 28") on his first trip through a crowded, noisy airport concourse. Sit on the floor and look around. It must be a forest of legs, levis and glutei maximi. All movement, voices and pandemonium with no faces or soothing touch.
Nature writing stretches our perspective. Once, when trying to think like a beaver, I inched into a beaver pond until I sat in the muck with only my nose and eyes above the surface. By chance, an aspen leaf landed on the pool not a foot from my nose. After that, my words could paint that leaf, how it trembled as it hit the surface, how it’s brilliant gold reflected off the mirrored surface contrasting with the green-black murk below.
I toy with writing children’s nature studies. My first will be entitled, “My Life as a Field Mouse.” For some ground truth, I try to visit the Pawnee National Grassland once each month just to sense the ebb and flow of the prairie’s seasons. Out there, I lay on my belly, and rest one cheek on the grass. By covering my upper eye, I finally see the world as my mouse would, from two inches high. Only then can I begin to understand interactions between field mice and rattlesnakes. The snake can easily be within striking distance yet totally invisible through the thatch. No wonder these mice have very large ears.
And its other predator, the hawk? How does it see the prairie? I climbed a windmill to study the landscape from 100 feet in the air. Below me stretched a fence line. I once wrote of its weathered pine posts, their softwood sculpted by wind driven sand, barbed wire burnished black with age. This fence had brought nostalgia welling up, reminding me again of the beauty of nature and her subtle ever-changing ways. But from the perspective of a hawk, the fence transformed into a line of evenly spaced dots, running off to intersect other lines of dots, artificially meting out the prairie into sections of land – 36 to a township, with sections allotted for church and school, the grid of a hoped-for human settlement.
Have your words ever been shaped by vantage points other than your own?