Creating a Scene through a Character’s Perspective

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Fiction is just one major representation of a greater conversation between history, culture, modernity, and the future, which all writing becomes a part. However, for a writer to translate his/her ideas, morals, and personal representations of the psyche, the story must be told in such a way that suspends the audience’s sense of disbelief, meaning that the narrative feels so genuine—so real—the audience will forget they are reading a story and give themselves over to the world in which the writer creates. In Best Words, Best Order, Stephen Dobyns writes, “The perceived world is a metaphor for the self, that what you tell about, what you see, reveals more about you than the object you are ostensibly describing” (72).

Begin a scene with a piece of visual art (the narrator can be viewing it or live in the world of the painting, photograph, etc.) and from the character’s point of view, describe what is happening. For example, if your character is the man sitting on the bed of Sandy Skoglund’s “Revenge” (pictured above), describe what he is seeing, the sounds of the room, the touch of the bed, the sheets, the woman next to him sleeping.

And as much as possible, try to limit these descriptions to the senses. Strong details—and giving time and patience to those details—can inspire an emotional response in your audience, but at the same time, trying too hard to evoke an emotional response in your audience can have the opposite effect. SHOW the scene through your character’s perspective, don’t TELL the scene through your narrator. As Gaston Bachelard writes in The Poetics of Space, “The imagination is never wrong, since it does not have to confront an image with an objective reality” (152).

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