Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Existential Viewpoint

I was attempting to clean off my desk today, and found a copy of U.S. Andersen’s Three Magic Words. I’d been trying to get inside one protagonist’s head a bit more as it had been difficult progressing on the story synopsis, and realized that I didn’t know her all that well because I did not yet know how she viewed herself in the big picture of life. I had no idea how she saw herself in the world or what type of relationship she had with her Creator. I frequently practice bibliomancy, and will say a quick prayer asking for guidance before opening a book to a seemingly random page. I may not always get the guidance that I thought I was looking for, but I always get guidance I can use. It was a synchronistic moment when I opened Andersen’s book at the page I’d previously placed an index card and my eyes immediately went to the heading, “Viewpoint.” Here’s what it said:

“The riddle of the universe is a riddle pure and simple. Like any other riddle, the true answer depends on a shift in viewpoint. If someone proposes a riddle to you, you put yourself in the place of each of the persons involved in the riddle; you attempt to get each of their viewpoints. When you have gotten each viewpoint, you translate them into one central viewpoint. Then the answer becomes apparent.

It is viewpoint that gives us the illusion of separateness in life. It is this trick that consciousness plays on us that is forever provoking us into believing that we are negligible in the vast scheme of things. We sense that our consciousness is imprisoned within the fleshy limits of our bodies, and we presume that our personal ‘I’s’ are forever limited to the few feet of cubic space that our bodies occupy.

We see ourselves at the center of a tremendous universe. As far as we can see in all directions there is myriad form and infinite variety. The very grains of sand upon a beach refuse to be counted through sheer number. Yet something within us keeps insisting, ‘If I were not conscious and able to observe this, it would not be so.’ We analyze this statement somewhat sheepishly and admit that somebody else would be observing it even if we weren’t, so it would still have to exist. What we fail to analyze is the personal, restricted, bodily contained ‘I.’”

I had a conversation with my character and learned that she didn’t really have much of a viewpoint yet in terms of where she fits in the vast scheme of things. Much of her consciousness is still imprisoned within the confines of her physical body. She is a clean slate when it comes to development of her spirituality. Now that I know she’s in touch somewhat with her bodily self, but not yet in tune with her higher, more aware Self that’s connected with everything, I can finish my assignment a lot more easily than I could have before I learned more about my character.

While I know that height, weight, hair color and favorite ice cream flavor can be important on a character development worksheet, authors need to know how their characters, particularly protagonists, see themselves in comparison to the outside world and what type of relationship (if any) they have with their Creator. How characters assimilate their spirituality, religion(s) and/or philosophies develops their character and propels the story forward.

What do you do to discover your characters’ viewpoint as to their place in the world and their relationship with their Creator? Do you utilize a worksheet of some kind? Do you interview your characters? Something else?


Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

Depends. Sometimes I will use a worksheet, other times I'll just sit down and start writing and all these facts and tidbits will start coming to me.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me, it's more a knowing, deep down, and experiencing how my protagonists respond in different situations.

While I write down a lot about plot and location, the more I write about the character, the more likely I am to lose that character. The less I write about the character outside of the actual story, the more I know.

It makes no sense.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Diana Celesky said...

It's amazing how you can sit down and start writing your story, and the character seems to take over, guiding you along his or her journey.

11:44 AM  

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