A useful skill for a writer is to be able to enter into the mind of his or her point-of-view character. Empathy and imagination combine to create a richness that would be absent if we remained content to parrot our own way of seeing life.
For today’s prompt, I’d like to challenge you to write flash fiction, poetry or essay in which you “become” someone who expresses life in a way that is opposite of your own experience. For example, if you are progressive in your thinking, write from a conservative point of view. If you are religious, try to imagine life as an agnostic. If you’re male, female. And vice versa for all of these and anything else you can think of. And try not to slam that contrary way of looking at things–truly espouse it.
For my second novel, I decided it would be fun to write from a male point-of-view. I haven’t shown it to a man yet, but let me put a small excerpt out there. I truly welcome your critique…especially from you men out there.
This begins the second scene. The protagonist, Matt, has just attended his mother’s death in a nursing home. Before she died, she confessed to him that she had lied to him about his father leaving her when he was a baby. She told Matt that he had been conceived in an act of rape.
From The Sin of His Father:
Matt leaned against the rough bark of an ancient oak tree. Employees were beginning to make their way into the building through the glass door across from where he stood. He watched them slide ID cards into the time clock then scurry down the hall to the nurses’ station for report. One woman, an aide Matt knew, heaved her bulky frame onto the park bench to sneak in a few puffs from her cigarette before heading on in to learn at report that Ellen Margaret Maxwell had died a couple of hours earlier.
Across the lawn, large crows helped themselves to bread crumbs. Matt knew that it had been Edward Riley, a resident of the facility, who’d scattered them. One of the birds interrupted breakfast to stare at Matt—Matt would have sworn it was so—and his skin tingled at the thought of stories his mother used to tell him of dead people coming back as black birds. Beside the predator, strewn feathers told of a smaller bird that had lost its struggle to keep on living. Matt’s grief came pouring out. That it was because of a fragile creature stunned him at first before he recognized the similitude. Like the wren, his mother fought her whole life for food and survival. She’d known a dark monster, too. Not one that would destroy her suddenly, mercifully, but one that most likely haunted every moment of her adult life. One that tore her down from the inside-out and in the end defeated her
The sadness Matt felt for his mother weighed heavy in the pit of his stomach. He swallowed air then swallowed again. The taste of the bitter coffee he’d sipped a few hours earlier crept up his esophagus and caused him to gag.
Then another notion caught his attention. Why hadn’t she ever told him? Why had she borne this pain alone? Anger had always come easily to Matt but this was different. This was an energy that blinded him like the sun that shone with full force now, burning its way into the core of his being. His rage at his mother’s deceit caused his whole body to shake. Matt took a long draught from his pipe and felt the effects of nicotine spread inside him. He tried to go with it and relax, but couldn’t avoid the sense that everything in his life was a sham, a lie. He sank into the grass at the base of the tree and leaned against the rough bark.
It wasn’t long before guilt joined the fray. His mother had left him before he had a chance to absorb the full impact of what she’d just revealed. She’d died without his absolution, without his even being able to feel forgiveness.
Matt took in another mouthful of smoke and let the flavors roll around on his tongue. He blew it out slowly and smelled the slightly nutty aroma of the Cavendish blend. The crow had flown into the branch of a near-by tree and waited, perhaps for another victim. Matt watched the bird as it sat frozen in time. When, at last, it swooped off into the horizon, Matt caught his breath in fear.
What if he was like that crow? What if he was a predator? What if he, too, carried genes that could cause him to be violent? Or deviant, like his father?
Now his mother was dead. He hadn’t had a chance to ask the questions that pressed him for answers. Before he could even name the deception that snaked among the crevices of his existence. Before he could understand the enormity of its impact on her life and on his own. Before he could forgive her deceit.
I look forward to reading your response to this prompt. Please leave your link in the comments section of this post so we can share what you’ve written. Have a happy, productive week.
I really want to try this prompt, Victoria, but haven’t had the time lately. But, like you said, there’s no time frame here. I like that!
it is quite a introspective journey to walk in someone’s shoes who is just opposite
Very nicely done. I think this character could be either male or female. To be more masculine sounding, insert a little more anger towards his father, irritation towards his mother. Unless he’s a novelist or poet his words might be a shade rougher. Overall a great story.
Thanks so much, Dan. I have an issue with anger. :0) So much better at the girly, passive aggressive kind of approach. Very grateful to you for pointing this out to me.
Intriguing story, Victoria. I felt sad for Matt. He was left with so many unanswered questions. i hope he gets some answers while going through his Mother’s things.
I was a little confused with the line – That it was because of a fragile creature stunned him at first before he recognized similitude. – I guess that is my only thought on constructive critiquing. Otherwise. when is the next chapter.
I would like to submit my ficticious short story for your “Monday Morning Writing Pormpt” – Your
thoughts are always appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to do these. You are so kind.
Other than the name and the pipe the character could have been a male or a female. That’s not a problem because there isn’t that much difference portrayed in such a short sequence of events. I did enjoy it though.
i think this is an excellent exercise – honestly never really thought about this but you just sparked a thought…and i once again realize that i just started to write about a year ago…so many things to learn and to discover and it’s so good to have people like you around to learn and get inspired from – thanks victoria
As I commented on your blog…I just can believe you’ve only been writing a year. You amaze me, Claudia.
re your comment on my blog…*blushing..* thanks victoria
This is a perfect challenge and one I might take you up on when the calendar clears.
Thanks for sharing an excerpt from your book. Engaging!
Happy day …
I look forward to that, if and when you have time.
nice victoria, you were able to step into those shoes well…this def takes practice to put yourself in the mind of someone of a different perspective, but a skill too that is beneficial not only in writing but in life…
awesome.. Victoria.. The character is superb..
Someone is Special
thank you so much for visiting my blog… i realize its too late for me to write in your Monday Morning Writing Prompt (its well past 4 pm the time limit u gave me, u see…) but i shall definitely try this experiment and send you the article as soon as possible.
Once again, thank you so much for visiting my blog and giving me your opinion!! 😀
4 PM is when I post it Sandra. There is no time limit for you to respond. We have enough stress in life without unnecessary time limits! :0)
Although this brief excerpt did eventually rope me in, I found the opening scattered with chopped, pale images (though these would later connect) and the descriptions to be so predictable…
“the rough bark of an ancient oak tree”, “then scurry down the hall to the nurses’ station”, ” heaved her bulky frame onto the park bench” and the awful “sneak in a few puffs from her cigarette”.
These are old and tired words. Scurry? Really, what thing other than a squirell scurries? Adults may lumber, spaz, squirt through hallways like a current of radio active marbles… but just plain old scurry? It pist me off, is what it did. Why is this big woman ‘sneaking a puff’ when she can be ‘inhaling the elixer of death’? These trite descriptions devalue the quality of the story that will be unfolding. I say this as a reader, not a fiction writer.
You asked for honest, I obeyed.
I’m grateful for your honest review. I will look at it again from the aspect of cliches…a trap easy to fall into.
Fantastic, it is important when writing to put yourself in the frame of mind of your character.
Plus it is a really nice touch putting that image into the post.
That seems exactly what the peace symbol represents.
I have part of a story about a man, I don’t know if it’s what you meant, but here http://brokensparkles.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/memories-5/ … Maybe in my next story I should try and give my character believes and life different than mine.
The part of your novel is engaging, is it published?
Thanks for reading my story Victoria. In the few stories I have I always approach the characters in a way to show what I like or don’t like, what is good or what is bad based on my believes, but I haven’t tried to create a character who likes or represents different things than me. Charlie from my story is an icon of what I think a bad person might be like … Once again thanks for the visit!
Are you kidding? You can’t stop there. I am hooked.
Male or female—the hook is in.
Excellent drawing in of the reader. I was being pulled toward my screen as i read it
PS: Woosh! I want more