It all depends on one’s point of view!
Day Nine: Point of View
Today’s Prompt: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.
We encourage you to give fiction a try, even if that is not what you normally do — it can be a fun way to stretch. If fiction feels like a bridge too far, take some element from the scene that speaks to you, and write a non-fiction piece about that. Perhaps you are drawn to the old woman, and will write a piece about your grandmother, or the crying man will inspire a story about the last time you cried joyful tears.
Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.
If point of view was an object, it would be William Carlos Williams’ infamous red wheelbarrow; everything depends on it.
Consider a car/pedestrian accident: the story differs depending on whether you’re the driver, the pedestrian, or the woman across the street who witnessed the horror. Everyone will tell a different story if asked to recount the event.
Shifting point of view can be your best friend if you’ve got writers’ block. If you’re stuck or you feel your writing is boring and lifeless, Craig Nova, author of All the Dead Yale Men, suggests shifting the point of view from which your story is told:
Take point of view, for example. Let’s say you are writing a scene in which a man and a woman are breaking up. They are doing this while they are having breakfast in their apartment. But the scene doesn’t work. It is dull and flat.
Applying the [notion] mentioned above, the solution would be to change point of view. That is, if it is told from the man’s point of view, change it to the woman’s, and if that doesn’t work, tell it from the point of view of the neighborhood, who is listening through the wall in the apartment next door, and if that doesn’t work have this neighbor tell the story of the break up, as he hears it, to his girlfriend. And if that doesn’t work tell it from the point of view of a burglar who is in the apartment, and who hid in a closet in the kitchen when the man and woman who are breaking up came in and started arguing.
Now my reaction upon first reading today’s theme was that this was both fun and inspiring. Then I realised that before I could commit words to the post I would need to let the fictional circumstances brew for a while amongst the aged brain cells and, if possible, it would be wonderful to include a dog in the story. 🙂
So for the next hour (I’m writing this at 10:30am) I shall use the wonderful weather we have today to continue my project of sorting out the grand mess around the back of the garage and see what creative thoughts come to mind!
“Jim, what’s the matter? You’ve seen this dear old lady sitting on the bench almost every time we’ve come walking. What’s brought on the tears today?”
Sandra thought that she knew her husband inside out, possibly better than he knew himself. Yet this quiet, sudden release of deep inner feelings from Jim had her perplexed.
Jim let go of Sandra’s fingers and fished around in his trouser pocket for a tissue. He blew his nose and wiped his eyes on his sleeve.
“Oh, it’s OK sweetheart, just some stirring of a place from too many years ago.”
Sandra re-engaged her fingers with Jim’s and they carried on walking through the park. Cleo bounded across the soft, green parkland grass, as ever looking so happy. She reflected that Cleo had always shown such happiness for being alive. Ever since they had cradled the young German Shepherd puppy in their arms. Gracious, Sandra reflected, nearly five years ago now.
What was it that had been stirred in Jim’s memories?
OK, it was the first time they had seen the old woman knitting but, otherwise, the woman was a familiar sight always sitting quietly on the park bench. Sandra struggled to recall exactly what the woman had been knitting; seemed like a tiny sweater, possibly for a very young grandchild. Why had that reduced Jim to tears? He was such an open man. That was what had attracted her to Jim all those many years ago when they had first met by chance. Jim’s previous wife, Diana, had been killed a few years before in a tragic car accident, her own husband had died of a coronary a couple of years before she met Jim.
Jim sensed that his sudden weeping would have raised some deep questions for Sandra. He struggled to rise above the pain of his recollection and decide what to do about that memory. That memory of his and Diana’s first child, a son, born with such hope yet with such tragedy written into his potentially short future. How the hospital staff had broken the news. Little Philip had been born with a massive brain aneurism and, at best, had a life expectancy of a few months. Philip never came out of hospital and died sixty days after he was born. Jim quietly ran the numbers through his mind; nearly eighteen years ago now.
He had never mentioned it to Sandra. A connection to the past that really should have died that same day as Philip died. First Philip and then Diana. After Diana died in that terrible road accident he thought that was the end of everything. Thought there was nothing that could ever happen in his future that would return a smile to his face, return the feelings of love to his heart. That’s when he started volunteering at the local dog shelter. There was something about helping those unfortunate dogs, dogs of all ages and circumstances, that, over time, spoke to him and made him discover reasons for living again. If these dogs, many of whom had had such terrible experiences, could so easily put their past behind them and enjoy living for each new moment then so could he.
That’s how he and Sandra had met. She had come in to the dog shelter carrying a small, lively little mongrel mix that she had found in the forest when out on a walk.
Their walk today, as usual, had brought them almost full circle and they were approaching the black, wooden park bench; the old lady still knitting away.
Doris had seen this couple on many previous occasions when the weather made it pleasant for her to sit on the bench here in the park. They seemed such a happy couple, unusually so in these complicated times. Every time she saw them it reminded her of the many happy years that she and Larry had had together. Still couldn’t accept that it was over five years ago now since he had died. That’s why, whenever the weather made it possible, she would come and sit on this park bench and remember the times when she and Larry would sit quietly here and just watch the world go by.
Today, for reasons only known to Cleo, as Jim and Sandra approached the park bench, Cleo went bouncing over to the old woman and next thing was sitting next to her on the seat.
Doris put out an arm to Cleo and ruffled the soft warm hair between Cleo’s gorgeous Shepherd ears. She watched as the man came over to her. “I’m so sorry but Cleo, for whatever reason, has taken a shine to sitting next to you today. Funny why today Cleo sensed the need to be with you on the bench. For we have seen you sitting out here in the park dozens of times before”
The man’s wife joined him and they both stood in front of the wooden bench. “My name’s Jim and this is my wife Sandra. I know we have seen each other frequently over the months.”
“Hi Jim and Sandra, my name is Doris and, yes, I have also seen you both out walking frequently. It looks as though your dog, Cleo is that her name, has instinctively sensed my good news.”
Jim and Sandra looked quizzically at Doris.
“Yes, I heard last weekend that my daughter and her husband successfully had the birth of their first child; a son. My grandson that is. I’m knitting him a sweater, as you can see.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful, Doris”, said Jim. “Wish we could stay a little longer and chat but we need to be home within the hour. When we next see you can we come across and here the good news in detail?”
“Of course you can! Go on, off you both go and take your gorgeous dog with you otherwise I will steal her away from you!” There was a soft laugh in the back of her throat.
“Come on, Cleo”, called Sandra and off they went.
Later when Jim and Sandra were back home and enjoying a hot tea after their walk, Jim apologised for his tears and quietly explained what had brought them on.
Sandra put down her cup of tea, came up to Jim and kissed him very slowly and tenderly on the lips.
“That was nice, sweetheart, what did I do to deserve that?”
“Jim, I didn’t want to mention it until I was certain. I have not had my period this month. I’m pretty sure that I’m pregnant. I’m going to town tomorrow to take a pregnancy test.”
For the second time that day Jim uncontrollably burst into tears.
I’m not sure how well I really captured each person’s point of view but it was fun writing it nonetheless!
Back on Monday with Writing 101 Ten.