Elizabeth: Discovering Perspective

Original photo of Cambridge, UK, © Eldridge Photography

Original photo of Cambridge, UK, © Eldridge Photography

This weekend, thanks to a Facebook post by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, I found a really fun time sink app that lets you take a photo and make it look like a painting. Apparently there are several apps that do this (who knew?).  The specific app Susan used is Painteresque™, for the Android and iPhone/iPad and, according to its website it:

“. . . makes photographic images more interesting and compelling because it . . . attempts to extract and intensify its most interesting and intelligible features.”

Sepia filter by Painteresque™

Sepia filter by Painteresque™

According to me, it’s a fun way to get a change of perspective. Depending on which of the filters/styles you choose to use (there are many to choose from), different aspects of the photo are emphasized. For example, in the photo above, the line of boats is the focal point. In the sepia-toned version to the right, without the distraction of the sharp reflection of the water, the details of the scene take on more emphasis, and in the black & white version below (my favorite, for the moment), the details are clear and balanced.

“Results for photos of people can be good or bad since it tends to bring out details rather than hiding them.” ~iTunes Store Picturesque App page

Black & White filter by Painteresque™

Black & White filter by Painteresque™

So, what does all this have to do with writing? Well, using my imaginary Writeresque™ tool, I can change my story perspective the same way. With the “Whose Story Is It” filter, I can change the character who owns the story which, as Jilly talked about in her Shiny New Story post on Sunday, changes which scenes occur and/or are emphasized, the perception of events, and the tone of the story. Using the “Genre” filter, I can change the story from a romance-with-elements-of-suspense to a mystery or a suspense-with-elements-of-romance tale. Whatever choice I make will change the overall feel and emphasis of the story, as will the “Humorous or Serious” filter.

Just like with the photo app, I can play with my choices until I get the end-result that looks just the way I want it, with the most interesting and compelling aspects emphasized. If I’m really lucky, I can uncover some details along the way that will make the story stronger and more exciting.  After I convert a few more photos, that is.

What ways have you found to challenge your own perspectives?

11 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Discovering Perspective

  1. Love that app! Isn’t it amazing what pops into focus, depending on what style you use? I didn’t even see the Tudor (Tudor?) building in the back until the second picture, where it suddenly seemed to leap at me.

    You are so right — we’re working with the very same materials during each draft, but a shift in style can make a huge difference.

  2. I may have to pay actual money for an app and buy that.

    I spent two years waffling about who was the protagonist for Demons Don’t before finally settling on Belial. Even then, I hedged my bets by writing him in close third and Dara in first, hoping to make the reader bond more closely with Dara, who’s much more sympathetic. That bubble burst when my first two readers let me know my strategem didn’t work.

    So here’s the issue with Writeresque: it took me 8 solid hours to change (nearly) all of Dara’s I’s, me’s and my’s to third person and even now I keep finding stray ones I missed.

    I must have gotten the beta version.

    • Jeanne, I’ve seen a technique for deep POV that suggests writing a passage first in 1st person then switching it to 3rd, makes the POV deeper. Did you find that when you re-wrote?

      • Michille, I’ve seen that suggestion too but have never tried it. I was afraid I would just wind up confusing myself. have you tried it?

    • Jeanne – sorry about the beta version of Writeresque 🙂 Glad you were able to find the right solution for your protagonist question though.

  3. I recall many discussions in the McD classes about what genre certain books were. Was it women’s fiction or romance? Was it romantic suspense or a thriller with romantic elements? As writers, we can intend to write the story one way, but the reader takes what they will from it.

    • Michille – you’re right; sometimes the story just works out the way it wants too, despite our intentions. I like to at least have an idea where I’m heading though, even if I waffle back and forth along the way or my reader may take things his/her own way.

  4. I’ve been working at applying the Jim Butcher line (also said by many others), “No one is an unjust villain in his own mind”.

    A cackling, finger-rubbing villain is fine for a cartoon, but in real life (or in really good fiction) they’re few and far between. Remembering that very few people act purely to hurt others helps with things as disparate as dissipating anger at the guy who just passed me going 90 and trying to see why Grant Ward might shoot an unarmed woman.

    • In class we learned that “everyone is the hero of their own story.” It’s helpful to think that way to avoid putting people/characters in the no-redeeming-qualities bucket. Not easy, but helpful nonetheless.

    • I think when I was in grade school I may have read something that was purporting to pass as a Wise Old Chinese Proverb (it might be — IDK — but at any rate, it’s still wise). To understand is to forgive.

      The guy going 90 may have just been the kind of guy who goes 90 because he likes the speed and is impatient. But maybe there’s a baby with a fever in the back seat, or maybe his wife is in labor, or perhaps there’s a ticking time bomb somewhere that he must defuse. (LOL, heading into fictional areas here.)

      We do a lot of stuff in life just because it feels good, or because it’s a habit. That doesn’t tend to work in genre fiction. (And it can be really stale and boring in mainstream fiction.) As writers, though, one of the hard parts is to make up a bunch of backstory, and then not be able to fit it into the text. Maybe it’s glowing underneath in the subtext, but I’m not always a subtle writer. I like writing things that are pretty much on the surface. (But I often don’t appreciate that as a reader — as a reader, I like solving small puzzles.)

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