If point of view was an object, it would be William Carlos Williams’ infamous red wheelbarrow; everything depends on it.
Consider a car/pedestrian accident: the story differs depending on whether you’re the driver, the pedestrian, or the woman across the street who witnessed the horror. Everyone will tell a different story if asked to recount the event.
Shifting point of view can be your best friend if you’ve got writers’ block. If you’re stuck or you feel your writing is boring and lifeless, Craig Nova, author of All the Dead Yale Men, suggests shifting the point of view from which your story is told:
Take point of view, for example. Let’s say you are writing a scene in which a man and a woman are breaking up. They are doing this while they are having breakfast in their apartment. But the scene doesn’t work. It is dull and flat.
Applying the [notion] mentioned above, the solution would be to change point of view. That is, if it is told from the man’s point of view, change it to the woman’s, and if that doesn’t work, tell it from the point of view of the neighborhood, who is listening through the wall in the apartment next door, and if that doesn’t work have this neighbor tell the story of the break up, as he hears it, to his girlfriend. And if that doesn’t work tell it from the point of view of a burglar who is in the apartment, and who hid in a closet in the kitchen when the man and woman who are breaking up came in and started arguing.
A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.
Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.
I could feel the heat of Claire’s hand in mine as we walked under the canopy of trees.
“Do you remember the first time we came to this park?” Claire asked.
“Of course I do,” I smiled, “you nearly dropped your lunch in the fountain.”
“Trust you to remember that.”
She nudged me sideways with elbow.
“Ow! Come here!”
I grabbed her, not caring what anyone in the park would make of it, she was giggling and pushing against me to break free. I held her close and whispered in her ear,
“Do as I say and you won’t get hurt!”
I could tell she was doing her best not to burst out laughing, as I slid my hands down her hips and loosened my grip until we were holding hands again.
As we walked down the winding paths passing joggers and dog walkers, I glance at Claire and think how lucky I am to have her loyalty after everything we have been through. I can’t help but notice the amount of strollers in the park, when I see it is a man in charge, I have to look away, it is painful enough to watch the mums.
I can’t tell what she is thinking as we make our way to the fountain to sit down.
It is busy, lots of people have already taken up their seats on the benches and around steps. I know Claire doesn’t normally worry about sitting on the grass, she’s not that high maintenance.
“Let’s sit on the edge over there.” I follow where she has pointed, we settle down on the cold stone of the fountains edge.
I resist all temptation to place my hands or even my feet in the water, I never could cope well with heat. Claire turned her back on me and then leant into my chest, I nuzzled her head under my chin. That’s when I saw her, the old lady, I was sure we had walked past her earlier on. She was knitting with red wool. I close my eyes and count to 10, kissing the top of Claire’s head blindly. I open my eyes and see that she is still there, clicking her grey, plastic needles together, she is knitting a tiny red sweater, baby clothes, they get me every time. So small…. I think of my mum and the opportunity that has been robbed from her to knit little sweaters in the park. I feel tears welling in my eyes and try to blink them away. I lean into Claire’s body needing every bit of solid reality I can touch, holding on to what I have. Her hands rest against my arms, still warm. I let the tears fall down my face, breathe deeply and kiss her for loving me. I would kiss every hair on her head if I could.
© N. Lewis 2007
I could tell Richard had something on his mind, the minute he suggested we stopped lying around indoors and take a walk. He wouldn’t let my hand go the whole time we walked together down the streets to the Park. I knew where we were heading. I just wished he’d been in a more chatty mood, it is difficult sometimes to get him to talk.
“Richard…” I cut myself off before the words ‘what are you thinking?’ he hates that question.
Quick think Claire! What can you say that isn’t what you want to say.
“Do you remember the first time we came to this park?” I manage.
“Of course I do,” he smiles, I love his smile. “you nearly dropped your lunch in the fountain.” he adds.
“Trust you to remember that.” I nudge him with my elbow.
“Ow! Come here!”
Before I could wriggle free Richard had me in a wrestling hold. I tried to suppress my squeals and screams, I don’t know what it must have looked like he was doing to me. Well I do, that’s why I struggled so much to get free. Just when I thought it was going to start really hurting he pulled me back on his chest and whispered in my ear.
“Do as I say and you won’t get hurt!”
My body shook as I tried to suppress my giggles and play along. Whatever was on his mind I liked this diversion. The feeling of his warm hands caressing my hips was making things happen inside me. Just as I thought he was about to clasp his hands somewhere else he slid his hand back in mine and we carried on walking down the path as if the last few minutes had never happened.
As we walk past joggers, dog walkers and babies in buggies being pushed by frantic looking parents and those clinging to their youth, those with 3 wheeled pushchairs that they can run with, I know he can tell I am looking at them. I can tell he is looking at me, he will know what I am thinking if I look at him now, I look down at my feet.
I can’t tell what Richard is thinking as we make our way to the fountain to sit down.
It is busy, there doesn’t seem to be any room on the benches and the steps are looking full too. I know that Richard will plonk himself on the grass and expect me to follow, but I am wearing pale shorts.
“Let’s sit on the edge over there.” I offer pointing to the fountains edge.
As soon as we had sat down I turned my body into his and leant against his chest. I closed my eyes and enjoying his gentle strokes against my arm, I love moments like this, sun on my face, time with Richard, uncomplicated silence. I wondered when he was going to start talking. Perhaps he didn’t feel he could.
I sensed his body shifting, it felt more rigid and his heart beat felt different against my ear, he kissed the top of my head. I hold his arms in my hands, my turn to stroke him. He starts to kiss the top of my head. I love when he does that.
I open my eyes and see that some people have moved, there is space on the bench, it might be more comfortable. Then I see the old lady, there’s no hope of Richard sitting by a stranger, especially one that’s knitting. I see that she’s knitting a small red jumper and wonder how many people do this anymore. Kids clothes can be bought cheaply, my thoughts wander, what will the mum think of this gift, will the child ever wear it? Maybe it is a jumper for a toy and not a boy or girl after all. Red, could be either, perhaps she doesn’t know, although knitted booties might be more useful for a new born.
I feel Richards head against mine and it brings me back to the moment. I think he is crying, his breathing is different. I know he is looking in the same direction as me. I hadn’t realised that he felt so bad about it still, nothing could be done, not on his part at least. Is this why he brought me to the park?
I love being outdoors, I am trying to maintain as much independence as I can, I have seen far too many friends wheeled off to Nursing Homes over the past few years because they didn’t keep themselves active enough, and that’s friends who still had family to rally around them and help them. My family support comes from the Church so I like to be able to give back. There’s not much I can do nowadays but I am proud that I can still knit, that my hands and eyes are still working well enough to manage, so when Joy and some of the W.I ladies told me about the latest mission I had to get on board. Knitting jumpers for children less well off across the other side of the world seemed like a good idea. I am on my third one now as I sit basking in the sun in the park.
I don’t have to watch my hands, they seem to knit on auto pilot, I can people watch, another of my favourite things to do. I like to make up stories about the people I can see. like that lovely young couple opposite me, sitting on the edge of the fountain. They seem so much in love, something I never found myself. The people I loved didn’t love me and vice versa, I was destined to be a spinster, it’s not so bad. I get to do what I want when I want, I am selfish and doubt I could survive the routine and managed time in a Nursing Home. Maybe one of the W.I ladies will let me move into their annex, they are all sure to have big houses.
© N. Lewis 2007