Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Viewpoint and Perspective

If reading and writing books are among my top two pasttimes, a close third would probably be talking about books (and how to write them) with others. I had great fun last Saturday teaching a workshop about Point of View and how important POV is in a story. I want, as an author, to really bring my character's perspective to life, to help the reader relate to what that character is going through, why that character is behaving a certain way, and to more fully bring that character's world into three dimensional life for the audience.

And the fact of the matter is, learning to see things through another person's perspective is a great skill to have in life, not just in building my stories. I am reminded of my mother-in-law and The Soup.

My husband grew up in a very small town (no bookstores, the horrors!) in an insular family. They've all stayed pretty close to home. Except then he married me and not only did we move several states away, we don't even live in the same time zone! Not long after we married, his parents drove to see us and I was nervous. My husband and I come from very different cultural backgrounds and I wasn't sure what my in-laws would think of their daughter-in-law, the Aspiring Romance Author. The day we expected them to arrive, I spent hours slaving over a meal I hoped would impress them. I wanted them to know I was trying to take loving care of my new husband.

When my father in law knocked on our door, my M-i-L stood behind him with a vat of homemade soup (she not only makes her own stock, she makes her own noodles) that she had transported cross country. It was her son's favorite she explained and she'd brought it just for him, so we could warm it up for dinner. My husband asked if we couldn't accomodate her and reheat my efforts the next night, and I felt crushed.

In fact, I may have--deep down, you understand--harbored the tiniest smidge of resentment when, every visit afterward, she brought along homemade noodles and told me just to let her know which night we wanted to have soup for dinner. Well, less resentment and more relief two years ago, when they visited us in the dead of winter and I caught a bad cold and the sheer volume of peppercorns she adds to that soup gave me the only five minutes of clear breathing I had all day! I decided then I could learn to love the soup, which has always been a family tradition for them and now, a gentle source of amusement between us.

This fall, I watched my little boy walk into public school for the first time--it looks so BIG and he looks so TINY among the much taller third, fourth and fifth graders. And I suddenly had a clearer perspective on what it's like, as a mother, to let go of a son--whether it's watching him start school or the much more daunting task of seeing him marry and move away.

It's cold and rainy today, the kind of weather that makes one feel introspective and melancholoy, and to tell you the truth, I could really use a steaming bowl of that lovingly made soup.

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