Writing Exercise of the Week: A Matter of Perspective

A while back, I wrote a post about the different points of view that can be used in a story.  First-person.  Second-person.  Third-person.  Third-person limited.  Omniscient.  All have been used by writers for millennia.  Using one over another can alter how readers perceive the events presented in your narrative.

It’s easy to get comfortable using one POV, so I thought we’d have fun and mix things up a bit today.

Let’s get started!

The Scenario

Write a short story that takes place in one location and involves three characters:

Character One doesn’t like Character Three and wants to leave.  Character Two is trying to get Characters One and Three to resolve their differences, but also has to get somewhere in the next twenty minutes. Character Three believes they are turning into some mythical creature and needs Characters One and Two to be present as long as possible for the transformation to stick.

The Assignment

Using the above scenario, outline a short story between 1000 to 1500 words.  You can place them anywhere; give them names and any additional characteristics you like.  Make sure the story has a beginning, middle, and end.

Now the fun part…

Exercise #1

Write one version from the first-person POV of Character Two.  Why don’t they want to be there?  What’s their issue with Character Three?  How are they kept from leaving as soon as they arrive?  Do they resolve their issues with Character Three with the help of Character Two?  What happens if they don’t?  Give us their side of things and how they view the circumstances they find themselves in.

Exercise #2

Write this version from the third-person POV of Character Two.  What led them to attempt a resolution between Characters One and Three?  Are they hopeful their plan will work?  What other ideas or tactics have they tried in the past?  What is their relationship to the other two characters that has sparked this mediation? And where do they need to be in twenty minutes, and what happens if they don’t arrive on time?  How can you show this urgency to the reader without telling them?

Exercise #3

Write this version from the second-person POV of Character Three.  Just like the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books, put the reader in the driver’s seat.  Make the reader the person who believes they are turning into a mythical creature.  What are they feeling?  What do they believe must happen for the full transformation to occur?  Why do they feel this way?  What was their relationship with Character One, and what caused the fallout?  What mythical creature do they believe they’re turning into?

Exercise #4

It’s time to go Omniscient.  Give us the perspectives of all three characters as they traverse this conflict to its resolution.  Feel free to change things; there’s no need to stick with what you wrote in the previous versions.  

Bonus Exercise #5

Once you’ve picked a location, choose an inanimate object in the space and write the story from that object’s POV.  What does it see?  What does it think is going on?  What are its thoughts on the characters and their conversations?


Which POV did you enjoy writing in the most?  The least?  Was there a POV you feel you could become better in with practice?  Experimenting with POV within the same scenario is a fun way to see how a story’s trajectory changes when a different character controls what the reader is witnessing.  

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: Learning to write While Reading

If you’re like me, if you like to write, you like to read.  Reading can be a passive, fun activity.  It can also be used as a learning tool for writers to develop their craft and improve their writing.  Like students learn from textbooks, writers can use novels as study aids and guides to help them learn by example and see what others have done before.

Why do we like the books we do?  How do they hook us?  What tools and techniques does an author use to drive the story forward and keep us interested?  How does an author introduce new plot points and develop compelling story arcs?

Let’s talk about it!

Pick a Familiar Book

Most of us have a book that we really enjoyed.  One that we read through at breakneck speed, mesmerized by the story, the characters, and the twists and turns.  

Choose a book that you’ve read before that really hooked you.  Grab a red pencil, pen, and paper and reread the book.  This time, however, you’re not reading to be entertained; you’re reading to learn.

Analyze This, Analyze That

What point of view does the author use?  Do they use different ones for different characters (the main character is in first-person, and other characters are in third-person)?

As you read, mark in the book with the red pencil how the author effectively uses description to introduce a character or location.  Are they verbose in how they describe, or is it simple?  

How does the author draw the reader into the story from the start?  What techniques do you think they utilize?  

When does the story change direction?  How does the main character receive new information that causes them to switch tactics?  Do they receive this information passively or actively?  

How does the author introduce conflict?  Is there an overarching conflict throughout the novel, or do things get resolved and new conflicts arise?  How does that affect your enjoyment of the story?  

How does the author show us the main character’s evolution from start to finish?  Are they open with other characters, or is the reader privy to things other characters in the book aren’t?

What are the main themes of the story?  How are they presented by the author?  Are they spelled out to the reader or more subtle?

Break It Down

Now that you’ve taken the time to deconstruct the story and its elements write down a bare-bones version. Break it down into the main plot points, the main character’s arc, and how these elements keep the narrative compelling and moving forward.

Write these points out as statements, but also quote the lines of dialogue or description that showcase these moments.  

How can you use this information to make your story and writing stronger?

Repeat the Process

Reread the book, keep an open mind and see if your initial views change.  Did you get something deeper from the second analysis than the first one?

Final Thoughts

Analyzing a favorite author’s work is a great way to dig deeper into another person’s creative mind.  You can see how a story works by breaking it down and see how the author uses character and plot elements to drive the narrative forward.  Multiple readings may deliver new and deeper information that can help you as a writer in the long run.