We almost waited too long. The berry bushes were nearly stripped of fruit by the time we arrived at the field, and the attendant told us this would be the last weekend for picking.
We collected our buckets and trudged along the no-longer-pristine rows in search of enough berries for ice cream, muffins, and a pie or two. Progress was slow. Clusters—the delight of berry pickers—were few and far between, and we had to fill our containers the slow way, single berry by single berry. When we spotted a group of pickers ahead of us, we turned around to walk back to the road and choose another row.
That was when we spotted all the berries we hadn’t seen while we were hunting from the same perspective as the other pickers. A simple change in our point of view revealed previously unobserved abundance, and our buckets were soon full.
It’s easy to fall victim to the same short-sightedness with our writing. But we have a few ways to change our perspective and make our stories better. Here are three.
1. Point of view. We write our novels from the first or third person point of view; that is, they’re either what we call “I” books or “Her” books. One of our editing steps is to switch the point of view when the story is complete. If we’ve written an “I” book, we switch to third person “Her.” The change brings to light awkward phrasing and descriptions, which we pare down or rewrite. Occasionally we’ve come to the conclusion the book is actually better when told from the different point of view, and we leave it. Typically, though, we switch back to the original point of view and find the story much improved.
2. Focus. We began our writing lives with unsuccessful attempts at romance fiction. Eventually we noticed there was always a mystery element in our stories, and for us that was the stronger draw. Once we switched our focus away from the romance and brought the mystery to the forefront, our books began to flow more easily. In a similar shift of perspective, we thought our heroes experienced events with a freshness that spoke of youth rather than the older characters we were forcing them to be. Allowing our heroes to express themselves in an age-appropriate way brought fun and joy to our writing.
3. Channel of communication. As authors, we use the written word to communicate to readers the story-world we create. And yet the first glimpse a reader has of our stories is a visual image—the book cover. Mocking up a cover with art we choose as representative of the story allows us to view our book from a different perspective. While a picture may convey the meaning of a thousand words, those words must capture the heart of the book, and do so succinctly.
As with berry picking, looking at our stories from a different angle reveals what we might not otherwise see. A new perspective—the berry angle, so to speak—makes our stories better. The pies are good too.
What method do you use to take a fresh look at your stories? Share your tips in the comments. We look forward to learning your perspective.
Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter writes sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit HLCarpenter.com to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.
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