When I was a middle school Language Arts teacher, I loved teaching creative writing. One of my favorite lessons was assigning William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily.” For one, its gruesome development hooked the kids and the startling conclusion kept the kids talking for days! The story is likely told from the collective townspeople’s perspective, which is great when working with point of view.
After reading the story, I would assign my students a creative writing piece that aligned with the plot points in “A Rose for Emily,” but allowed them to choose to rewrite the story from the perspective of Emily (a reclusive old spinster/the murderer), Homer Barron (the murdered boyfriend who has been missing for decades), or Toby (Emily’s servant who flees the scene once Emily dies). It was one of those projects for me that was always a winner. The kids were excited. They worked hard. The end products were great. Every step was fun!
As I’m working through some new scenes in my novel, I keep thinking back to this lesson because I have scribbled down notes and thoughts of various characters. Sometimes I even write key scenes from the perspective of someone other than the protagonist because I go deeper within an event or towards a character. Currently, I am writing a funeral scene in my novel (don’t worry, the death isn’t a spoiler). Instead of writing from the main character’s perspective, I elected to write it from the perspective of the ‘villain’ (Josh) in the story. Now, I’m going back to write it from the protagonist’s (Tara’s) POV. I’m actually bummed because I really like Josh’s perspective, but the exercise gave me options and new insight on how to address the event without being boxed into Tara’s grief.
Richard Thomas from LitReactor (one of my FAVORITE writing sites) also suggests doing this. You can read that article here. What I love is that Thomas says “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And so is the truth. Nobody is entirely evil, and nobody is perfect.” What a statement. This POV exercise, as I found, really allows you to keep your characters from being flat, one-dimensional, or stereotypical. Try it out! If middle schoolers can do it AND have fun with it, so can you.