This week we all watched in horror as Notre Dame burned. It was a great loss for human cultural heritage and a personal wrench for many.
And it made me wonder about other stories we might tell.
Write a story from the perspective of a non-human character
- You could anthropomorphize the character, and make it mostly like one of us, just with a very definite and unusual outlook (a gargoyle might be more worried about acid rain than fire, for example) . Think of the Ents in Lord of The Rings. They speak mostly like humans, but they have their own perspective, style, and concerns. Terry Pratchett writes his gargoyle’s speech as if they have their mouths permanently open (probably a reason you’d never see one of those gargoyles as the main character in a novel. A little hard to read…)
- You could write the story from a completely non-human point of view. Show us how your non-human experiences the world.
- If you choose the latter option, be alert for ‘humanisms’ creeping in. For example in this piece, written from the perspective of a tree, the tree claims to feel the woman at its base ‘relax’. I wonder how a tree would know what ‘relax’ feels like. Would it even know the concept?
- To make sure you’re writing a story and not just a thought experiment, think about what moment of change your story can hinge on. In the tree story, we don’t really have a story, as such. (It was published in a forestry advocacy publication, so it’s fine that it ends with an exhortation to respect the forest, but it’s not really a short story). What is your character facing? What moment has the potential to change everything? What happens next?
- Donald Maass says that ‘plot happens outside, story happens inside’. Show us stuff happening, but also show us why it is significant to your character. What potential does it carry for an internal shift in your character? (They don’t have to make that shift. They can reject change. But that choice is an action.)
- Write a mix of observation (using all five senses, if that makes sense for your non-human character) and internal meaning. That doesn’t mean you have to give us internal dialogue. Remember you can convey a lot of meaning with the tilt of a head or a hesitation before a hand is outstretched.
If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.
Are you signed up for StoryADay May 2019 yet? Make sure you’re on the list and I’ll send you a prompt like this, every day in May. Leave a comment today telling us what your hopes are for this May’s challenge!
Photo: Sharon Mollerus