Saturday, March 28, 2015

Change of Perspective

Photo by Shannon Kringen .  licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Writers earn their chops by successfully writing from multiple perspectives.  Characters in a story have to be portrayed differently and they should have unique points of view that come through in the writing.  Good characterization will demonstrate the unique characteristics of these personas.  This will reflect the societal norms of the societies they were raised in.  Writing a character raised in an eighteenth century Native American village has to be much different than writing a London debutante.

My hypothesis, then, is writers should be better equipped to deal with differences in beliefs and attitudes between one culture and another than non-writers are.  But then I wonder how easy it is for a writer to capture these differences unless they travel or do research about life on foreign soil.  Along these lines, I wonder about my own cultural "voice"--both as a writer and a human being.  Cultural values change and morph over time.  Is it socially and morally imperative to be receptive to these changes as one advances through life?  Or is it better to anchor yourself to certain core values?

I think the ideal is to engage in a process of continuous re-evaluation of one's cultural values.  This evaluation would ideally take place in several dimensions:  philosophical, moral, social, financial, etc.  But the reality is it's difficult to find the time for all of this introspection.  Invariably, we fall back on pre-existing values.  And this can lead to situations that challenge or contravene these pre-existing values in a disruptive way (when they have "calcified" and become brittle due to age and lack of re-evaluation).

When these moments come, how do we react?  If you subscribe to the concept of the plurality of self, you might begin a process of forming a new persona that identifies with the values suggested by new emergent realities.  In this case, the older selves don't cease to exist, but may have to be gradually deemphasized or merged with newer points of view.  And it may take a while to fully reconcile these points of view.

I think it's good for a writer to go through these evolutions for the same reason that actors sometimes get better with age.  As you realize that your own self isn't static, I think you gain perspective that you can leverage when writing your characters and giving them unique backgrounds and perspectives.

So maybe a writer should book an overseas trip once a year to stay fresh or do something unusual like joining a UFO hunting group.  Maybe one should experiment with religion or explore a new subculture.  If you become adept at creating new personas, then perhaps it lessens the pain of having to retire obsolete ones.  I will have to ask some enlightened, older friends about this.