Welcome to our regular Monday feature, where you'll find different kinds of writing prompts and exercises. Each week, we'll give you something to help exercise your mystery-writing muscles. This week we are talking perspective:
There are two sides to every story, and nothing is more true when it comes to mysteries. Actually, the best mysteries have more than two sides -- the reader thinks one thing, the characters think another, and then at the end, the truth reveals something entirely unexpected.
How do authors do this? It isn't easy, but it all starts with perspective. Part of perspective is point-of-view. Choosing the POV is critical to the unfolding of your story and how the reader is given crucial information. Often authors play with POV until they find one that tells the story how they want. For example, first person can sometimes be too limiting because you can only reveal info as your main character or narrator discovers it. That's why often mysteries are written in third person -- so the author can give the reader information without telling his characters.
But whatever the POV you decide on -- first person, third person limited, third person omniscient -- perspective doesn't stop there. You must also be aware of the point-of-view each character has in regards to your story. In other words, even though you may be telling the story in first person from your detective's POV, you must still know the story from your villain's point-of-view.
For today's writing exercise, we will write a story from another character's perspective.
**Teachers you may want to first have students read The True Story of The Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and compare it to a version of The Three Little Pigs as an introduction to this exercise.
1. Choose a story to rewrite -- You can choose any story, fairy tale, picture book, a scene from a novel, even a scene from your own story, just be sure to choose one that has a definite villain or series of events that could be different when seen from another character's perspective.
2. Pick a character to tell the new story -- Again, the best character to choose is the villain or the character that will have the opposite story to tell, but it can be anyone whose telling of the story will showcase an opposite perspective.
3. Start Writing! -- As you do, think about the conflict or problem that your character is seeing differently from the original narrator. Is he admitting that is how it happened but has a different explanation as to why it happened? Remember, the actual characters and details framed in the original story cannot change i.e. you cannot suddenly bring a strange character in or add details that aren't in the original, but your explanations of actions and motives can change. Your job is to find how the facts could tell a totally different story than the one told.
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16-year-old Roswell Hart finds herself in this very predicament in Laura Ellen's YA thriller, BLIND SPOT (October 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)