Shifting Perspectives

As we approach the end of May and the official start of summer, we were thinking back to weeks earlier, when we awoke on a late-April morning to rather heavy snowfall. We thought to ourselves, Typical Vermont weather.

But for people who may have just moved to Vermont from warmer climates, what might they think of this? Were their hopes dashed at seeing snow when, by the calendar, we were already more than a month into spring? And this brings up an interesting point for writers, because the event itself (snowfall in late April in Vermont) can evoke multiple perspectives. In both fiction and nonfiction, the perspective toward an event can tell a reader something about the subject. In fiction, particularly, a writer can hint at a character’s personality by how that character reacts to an event, and if that reaction is atypical or unexpected, it might signal a change in the character.

Using the April snowfall as an example, a character might be thrilled to see it because he is reminded of good times he’s had during snowy weather. A young girl might be hoping that school is canceled because of it, or she could be worried about a parent who’s unexpectedly late arriving home because of it. A lifelong resident might be frustrated by the fact that wintry weather goes on forever, but he doesn’t want to move away for some unspoken reason—perhaps fear of the unknown or something else that makes him feel like he can’t.

There are countless elements in our lives that affect us in both great and small ways. The next time you’re writing (or reading), think about how the characters’ motivations and personalities manifest in their thoughts, speech, and actions—particularly when looking at the same event.