The ‘Not-Me’ Factor

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” -Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.
Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

A writer attempts this on a daily basis. Tries to ‘climb into’ another’s skin and ‘walk around’ for a while. This goes right along with the writing advice that always advises to write what you know. Sounds reasonable, right?

So I sit down at my computer to work on my novel. Point of view’s a male…Wait, I’m not a man. How does that work?

*Shrug* (Maybe I can make it work.)

The man’s angry…Shoot, I rarely get angry. Is it cliche for him to always want to hit things?

And the man wants revenge…Now I’m really in trouble. I’m more likely to turn my back and walk away than to seek revenge. Timid, yeah. But that’s who I am.

So I’m not male, I’m not angry, and I’m not vengeful. But my character’s supposed to be. I don’t know these things. I don’t know how the emotions feel, I don’t know what kind of thoughts to write or actions to describe.

But I determined to make a go of it anyway. I ‘tried on the skin,’ as it were.

So I wrote this character trying to look at the world through a different lens.

I struggled, growled and muttered. (My husband often laughs at my imaginary conversations.)

Then I proudly handed the piece to Nate thinking, ‘by golly I’ve accomplished thinking like a male.’


He came back asking ‘why would he care about such and such?’ Then he commented ‘seems so sappy and cliche. No man thinks like this.”

Gah! How would he know? What an inane question. Of course he would know.

Then it dawned. *Light bulb* and all that. I’d overlooked one of my greatest resources.

Photo courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.
Nate. (Photo courtesy of Arthur Rousseau with Hope for Haiti.)

Nate. For one, he’s a guy. That’s a step closer than I. True, he’s not vengeful, but from his past, he does understand anger and his questions pushed me even farther from my own thought process, which is exactly what I needed.

I am not saying you can’t write a character completely foreign to you. But if you’re struggling with the viewpoint, have someone you trust talk it through with you. Even if you don’t agree with everything he or she says, you give yourself another perspective to consider. It’s a resource often overlooked. We turn to books, internet, or television before we realize the person next to us might be the greatest asset.

In fact, even if you’re not writing, this is a good way to work through something difficult. Many times we get too caught up in our own minds and can’t see past our limited perspective. Another view helps us see the world from a different angle=) Even if we don’t agree with the other view, it makes us more aware.

So today, try on another perspective.



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