SnackWrite #2: Viewpoint and Description
SnackWrites are writing exercises that can be done in fifteen minutes or less. Each exercise has a forum topic where you can submit your work, and comment on others. You must register to be able to view the forums. Registration widget is in the sidebar. Link to forum topic for this exercise is at the bottom of the exercise.
In modern fiction, the story almost always comes to us through the viewpoint of a character. This is most obviously true of stories told in the First Person, but it is no less true of stories told in the Third Person. One implication is that the narrative we get is always shaped and distorted by the character’s experiences and bias. This mirrors life. Ask any three people to describe the same event, and you will get three different stories. We can use that to bolster the illusion of reality in our prose, and to see what is revealed about our characters by their different interpretations of what happens in the story.
Exercise: A character enters a restaurant. Describe that character and their entrance from the viewpoint of multiple people sitting in the restaurant. Think about what the description reveals about the viewpoint character. To fit this exercise into your tight schedule, simply write one description at a time, coming back to write the next when you are able. In my examples, I present two versions of the same two characters, using four descriptions.
Descripton 1: Julie burst through the door just as the waiter was refilling Sam’s coffee. She swept through the restaurant, scattering objects and people in her path. Never a dull moment, since the moment she was born. He couldn’t help but smile.
Description 2: A woman blundered through the cafe door, letting in an eddy of frigid air. Maggie recognized her high school classmate immediately, despite the ten intervening years. She pressed her lips together in a thin smile as she watched Julie trip over every possible obstacle, and some that didn’t seem possible.
Description 3: The waiter was refilling Sam’s coffee for the second time when Julie made her usual dramatic entrance. She had always been a door slammer. He tried not to frown as she bumped and jostled other patrons on the way to his table. Her smile was oblivious.
Description 4: Maggie recognized Julie the moment she entered the restaurant. She quickly looked down at her food and pulled her shoulders in tight. Out of the corner of her eye she tracked Julie across the restaurant. The same careless clumsiness with those long limbs, but she remembered the dexterity of those hands. Maggie felt herself start to blush, and tried to force herself to look at her phone. Her husband had just texted.