Thoughts on Writing From Multiple Perspectives

Recently, a friend of mine dropped me a note. He had picked up Starburst, Book 2 of my most recent series.

Received book Starburst, yesterday. I’m just 30 pages in, but it sure changed the sympathies of the reader as to who are the bad guys.

This totally made my day.

If there’s something I’ve learned over my time walking the earth, it’s that when there’s conflict there’s usually a whole lot more going on under the surface than meets the eye. Two sides to every story, you know? Some folks call these multiple truths, though maybe that idea is fodder for a blog post some other time. What I’m talking about here, though, is the basic idea that the “bad guy” is never the bad guy in their own telling of the story.

I’m interested in that aspect of human existence: that clash of ideology, events that come about when two or more sides hold views that are incompatible and both are so sure they’re right that there can never be discussion or compromise. Sometimes that’s fair, really. Sometimes it’s true that the gap between viewpoints is so large that there is no real overlap (tell me when this is sounding familiar to us in the US, eh?). Even then, though, you’ve still got these two factions of people who both consider themselves fair and full of grace while the others are some form of evil.

I love that idea, and I fully admit I was thinking about it as I set about to write the series. If you’ve kept up to date with it, you know that book 1 and book 2 intersect but come from very different points of view. Actually, book 3 does, too, but again, that’s probably a conversation left for a different post. I’m thinking about this now because I recently put out a newsletter that included some of the buzz going on around the books, and it included a couple comments from readers that suggested that maybe I’ve done this pretty well. Here’s an example.

I was surprised and hooked by the change in viewpoint. I’ve been reading science fiction since the 70’s and this series…reminds me of when I first read Asimov’s Foundation Series…they’re similar in presenting different vantage points, a nice feel of more “hard science” in the fiction and the plot takes you in directions that left me no choice but to immediately download the 3rd book.

And another:

In this 2nd book of the series, we see the world from an alternative view. The rebels of U3 are the focus. How did the movement begin, who is carrying it forward? Honestly, go back and reread the first book because some events will take on new meanings.

So, yeah. I try my best to not worry much either way about reviews, but I’ll admit those are nice to see.

Here’s part of my response to my friend’s note:

Thanks for the comments on Book 2. One of my goals across the series is to avoid making any one side “the good guys” …  and if you make it through the series, you’ll see that there are more than two sides. [grin] It’s like reading histories from each direction. The heroes shift, and even people you disagree with have a sense of humanity about them that is common with yours. I’m getting that vibe watching Ken Burns’ Vietnam right now, for example. And I get that vibe when I read (or hear) conversation from the views of opposition in about any war. So, yes, I wanted to use Book 2 to shift a perspective. Books 3 and 6 do that a lot, too. Books 4 and 5 are a little more traditional, but perhaps have those seeds.

When I was talking about how I get better at writing, I spent a lot of time focusing on how I try to stretch myself, how I try to teach myself the skill of seeing things from different perspectives. This is why.

I think it’s always a good practice for a writer, or any other storyteller for that matter, to mindfully work at seeing things from as many perspectives as possible. Sure, you might still get them wrong, but you do your best and move on. And, the coolest thing about the struggle is that, while you’re working to actually understand things you don’t see—while you’re teaching yourself that it’s truly possible that all the things you’ve thought were right may not be so right…well, while all that’s happening inside you, it’s also working to build this broader idea of who people really are, too.

Which maybe is the root of becoming a better person?

Since that calls for a different perspective, I guess someone else will have to take care of that assessment, eh?

STS-Bk6-STARCRASH-600-400sts-bk1-starflight-ecover-600x400Starcrash, Book 6 in the series is now available for pre-order (to be published December 1!).

If you’re interested in beginning the series, you can grab Starflight at any one of the usual places.

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Posted in Daily Writing, Stealing the Sun.

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