Thursday, June 18, 2009

Different Perspectives

Optical Illusion

I’ve always been fascinated by different perspectives (like the optical illusion on the left. Do you see the young woman with her face turned away? Do you see the hag with her chin tucked into her fur coat?)

Whenever a plane crashes, the eyewitness accounts are usually radically different: “The plane banked to the left.” “The plane’s nose turned to the ground.” Even the eyewitness accounts of the Titanic differed: did the ship break in half? Did the ship descend into the sea fully intact and nose down?

I like the use of different perspectives with mysteries and think there may be other applications in both fiction and non-fiction. In mysteries, different eyewitnesses may have completely different versions of events. This means a sleuth may rely on the account of one witness: “When I heard the noise it was eleven o’clock. Woke me up out of a sound sleep and sent shivers up and down my spine…” but then discover from another witness: “Jim? No, he wasn’t awake at eleven o’clock. Snoring like a baby. But I did hear a ruckus around 11:45….scared the life out of me.”

What about in non-fiction? Journalists usually interview more than one witness to get information for a story. What if you were doing an in-depth report on the election debacle in Iran? You would hear one completely different account from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s supporters and another from Mir Hossein Mousavi’s. It’s always interesting to include opposing opinions. It may make the proponent of the wrong-sided opinion look ignorant, but it’s almost always entertaining.

In fiction, you could have a protagonist who seems to go from one conflict to another, fueled in part by their pigheadedness. What if they had a best friend who slapped some sense into them and started them on a completely different track? What might that do to your story?