Brandon Riederer is an Adjunct Professor of English at Bryant & Stratton College. He has a M.A. in English from National University.
5 Prompts to Improve Your Writing: Perspective
Every piece of poetry or prose ever written, whether intentional or not, permeates around perspective. The visions created from words on a page inevitably centralize from a point of origin i.e. points of view (POV). The most common understanding of POV splits into the following categories: 1) first person, 2) third person, and 3) third person omnipresent. Determining POV involves a conscience delegation of perspective— who sees what, who thinks what, and how these experiences are communicated. Please note, however, this is the most basic and common understanding of POV. Creative writers can dramatically enhance POV by fully engaging the possibilities of perspective through various techniques such as defamiliarization or styles such as Imagism.
Here are five prompts to help you think outside the box with your creative writing!
1. Be Nostalgic
It is common advice to “write what you know” but have you considered writing about where you have been and what you have experienced? Think about it this way, write from the perspective of a child experiencing the world anew. Write from the perspective of a silly love struck teenager. Forget about your adulthood, forget about ‘rational’ thoughts, and transport yourself back to a time of innocence—even ignorance. Focus on the simple things in life.
2. Be in the Moment
Most working adults get caught up in the chaotic realm of adulthood where our daily thoughts often revolve around To-Do lists and plans, plans, plans. It is difficult to slow down your wheels once the momentum of the day strikes. The tedious little things add up and string together; before you know it, you’re laying in bed exhausted at the days end only to wake up the next day to hop back onto the hamster wheel. Well. Take a second to stop. and. breathe. Inspiration for creative writing is all around you if you take the second to slow down and look! Need to make your characters more realistic? Look around next time you’re in the grocery store: that wise old man your protagonist desperately needs advice from might be hobbling beside you. Need to capture a scene in full detail? Go somewhere that reminds you of what you want to describe and record how you feel, what you see, the things you hear, and immerse yourself in the moment.
3. Imagine the Future
Science fiction writers are experts at this technique. Consider how vastly technology has changed and influenced daily life over the past 20-50 years: the idea someone could video call another person across the globe was laughable. Now, the world can hardly live without it! However, on a deeper level, think about how all these advances in technology have altered the fabric of society, changed the ways humans form relationships, and even how people develop their personal identities. If you need inspiration for your creative writing then go ahead and transport yourself into the future. Think about some ‘laughable’ invention that doesn’t exist yet and explore the possibilities or the consequences such technology holds for the future of humanity.
4. Put Yourself in Someone Else's Shoes
Any creative writer can easily write from their own perspective; however, the ability to displace yourself from your perspective, your world, your values, and place yourself within the mind of something foreign— that is where greatness lies. This is the art of empathy. This is how great actors and actresses are made, great singers and songwriters, and especially novelists. The ability to temporarily transport outside yourself and see the world from the perspective of the Other is perhaps the most difficult yet rewarding skill of any entertainer or writer. Here is an easy prompt to help you began to think in this direction: remember the old lady that used to live down the street? The grumpy one with a thousand cats running around in her yard? She used to call the cops on the kids for setting fireworks off in front of her house on summer nights. Nobody was scarier or more lonely than this poor old woman. What was her story? Where did she come from? How did she get to where she is now? What information about her ‘humanizes’ or ‘fleshes out’ her narrative or character?
5. Write from an Unfamiliar Point of View
This prompt goes along with the previous one; however, we are going to take it one step further. While many writers often use this technique in children’s books, it can nevertheless be used as a serious and immensely powerful technique for poets or authors of short stories. The task here is simple: imagine you are a tree… imagine you are a bird… imagine you anything so long as you are not human. Garth Stein brilliantly pulled this off in his book “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by narrating from the perspective of a dog. James Agee captured the tragic perspective of cow getting sent to a slaughterhouse in his short story “A Mother’s Tale.” This is a very ethically charged technique if used properly but can be very anthropomorphic or sensationalized if misused: it takes practice, patience, and a humble spirit to really put yourself in the shoes of something nonhuman. Start simple: what is an annual flower thinking as it slowly withers away in the fall? Does it even care about winter if it knows it will simply bloom again during the summer? How can you make a story about a flower and its ‘thoughts’ meaningful for humans? Why should we care?
Thanks for Reading!
So that’s it guys and gals. I hope I have given you enough to ponder and hopefully spur your creative thoughts. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below.
Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on July 17, 2020:
All the five points you have put are really so important to work on our creative genes. Nice work. Loved this.
Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on December 18, 2018:
These are fantastic. I think if a writer only writes what they know they are going to become stale and boring. Writers by nature have curious, creative, imaginative minds that are meant to explore, discover, and expand. That's the fun of it to me. I already know what it's like to be a divorced 62 year old grandmother in 2018 living in the Pacific Northwest and has a pretty quiet life. But I wasn't there when the cold war ended and the Berlin wall came down and I found a whole new world of freedom. I'd love to find out more about it and write about it.
Thanks for another great article on writing.
Ann Carr from SW England on October 26, 2018:
Great article with inspiring suggestions. I love any writing which sets us off on a challenging tack and I set a few of my own challenges occasionally.