Points of View
By Cait Collins
Recently four of my sisters and I sat down to work on our segment of the “This Is Your Life” presentation for our minister’s retirement celebration. We had all attended Black Mesa Bible Camp as either campers or counselors, so we were going to bring back memories of our camp days. As we exchanged ideas, it became apparent we had some similar memories and a few “I don’t remember that” moments. But when we combined our recollections we were able to put a good act together. And if you can believe the all the comments, we were a hit. But if the program had been based on just one sister’s memories, the skit could have been flat.
Varied points of view of an event add spice to a stew pot of memories. For example, one sister remembered the first verse of a favorite camp song. Three of us did not remember that verse. Two sisters harmonized the opening lines and soon the other three of us broke in with the portion of the song we remembered. It was great fun. But without the opening lines it would have been so different.
Television police procedurals employ multiple views in solving the crime. Listen to detectives as they interview the witnesses to a bank robbery.
Detective: How many perpetrators were there?
Witness 1: Three maybe four. They moved so fast I couldn’t track them.
Detective: Can you describe them?
Witness 1: One was tall and skinny. Didn’t have much hair, but he did have a mustache. The second one was short and kind of hefty. I only saw him from the back. The other two are kind of blurred. I wasn’t worried about them ‘cause they didn’t have guns.
Detective: Please describe the weapons.
Witness 1: I don’t know man. Guns are guns. I wouldn’t know an assault rifle from a hand gun.
Detective: What about their vehicle?
Witness 1: An SUV. American make. Black. Couldn’t see the plates because they were smeared with mud.
The detective goes to the next witness. Her answers were different. She saw only two men and one woman. They were all young late teens to mid-twenties. White, all with long hair and athletic looking. The girl was the driver of a dark green SUV. New York plates 5233. The witness only had a partial plate number.
The second detective comes over and begins flipping through his notepad. His witnesses recalled three to five criminals, midget to giants in size, all men, wearing coveralls, business suits, or jeans and flannel shirts. They drove dark SUV’s, Lincolns, or mini-vans, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut plates 5233, 5332, 3532. Now the detectives must go back to the station and wade through their notes to find matching information or consistent statements in order to find suspects.
One of my instructions taught the lesson this way. During his lecture, a man came into the room and spent a couple of minutes talking with the professor. When the door closed behind the visitor, we were asked to write our recollection of the event. Each student saw a different man and viewed the conversation as hostile, friendly, businesslike, or “I thought we were going to have to call the cops”. The visitor was a police officer wearing a blue APD uniform with the standard utility belt. He returned some books the professor had lent him. The meeting was friendly. Twenty some odd pairs of eyes and no one got all the details right.
The point is varied recollections and viewpoints provide differ stories, hooks, or plot turns. Employing the inconsistent memories and stories helps us build the plot, provide glimpses of character traits and character interaction. Using the varied viewpoints allows a writer the opportunity to write multiple works based on one set of events but from the eyes of each major character.