Wednesday, February 26, 2020

It's all about Perspective

Last summer I did two posts on writing-related words starting with the letter P.


Another "P" Word = Persistence posted back in August and A 15 letter word Not Equal to Lazy (Procrastination) in June.

One of my favorite quotes from the persistence post was this (referring to an article about why people don't meet their full potential) :

The trouble is that most people don’t seriously want what they say they want.
’I want’ means, ‘if I want it enough I will get it.’ Getting what you want means making the decisions you need to make to get what you want.”In other words, few of us are willing to do what it takes to achieve what we desire. 

So why do I bring these old posts up today????


Well, because THIS happened last week.



Despite my tendency to procrastinate, I persisted. I did the work and sold another book to Love Inspired Suspense. You can expect to see it on the shelf in January 2021.  

I'm celebrating and I couldn't think of anyplace I'd rather announce it than here!




But as anyone who has ever sold a book knows, contracts come with lovely revision notes from your acquiring editor. I've been lucky so far, because neither of my books have required extensive revisions. However, the note that came this time made me think of a new P word, one that has been on my mind recently.


I had an experience that made me focus on PERSPECTIVE and how it relates to writing.


I have lived in the same neighborhood for the past 33 years. Nearly every day of those 33 years, I have walked down the block that is half a block over from mine. Most days I walk it multiple times - to and from work, walking the dog, going food shopping. 

I live in a Brooklyn neighborhood that is known for it's Brownstones. Many of those houses have front stoops that end in pillars/pedestals. They look like some version of this.




That is what I have seen every day for 33 years!

But a few weeks ago as I was walking down that very same street, I noticed something. If I looked at the stoop from a different angle, it looked like this.





Do you see the face?  I had never noticed it before? I sent a photo to my daughters and neither of them had ever noticed it either.

So I got to really looking, and then I noticed that this was true on many blocks.









And most shocking of all - it was true of the pedestal at the bottom of the flight of stairs in my own house!

I had just never looked at it from that angle before.

So you may be asking, what is the connection to writing?

It goes back to that revision letter, and how sometimes, in order to see what our editor is seeing, we have to change our perspective. But that's not always an easy thing to do when you've been stuck in a rut thinking about something the same way for a long time.

(Fortunately, despite how it feels at times, I have NOT been working on this book for 33 years!)

In order to make the one change my editor requested, I had to change my perspective on why the heroine was acting the way she was. I did a lot of thinking about it, but then I did what I often do, I studied up on craft.

I read several articles on writing in an attempt to reconsider the changes I had to make. That's when I came across this video.

For those of you who don't have the patience to watch (though I highly recommend that you do), this short film called The Ten Meter Tower, this is the YouTube blurb:

A 10-meter diving tower. People who have never been up there before have to choose whether to jump or climb down. The situation in itself highlights a dilemma: to weigh the instinctive fear of taking the step out against the humiliation of having to climb down.

Most of the video is a closeup shot of people on the diving platform as they agonize whether or not to jump. It's by turns amusing, excruciating, and painful to watch.  (warning:  once or twice there is a curse word).

The viewer is left feeling SO curious about what the jump looks like. Eventually they pull away and show a long shot. I was going to post a photo of that, but I didn't want to violate copyright, so just imagine a long view of a pool (or go to 6:07 in the video).


The thing is, it didn't look so terrifying.

But then they showed a different view - the potential diver's view.


OH!  Big difference!!!


Suddenly you could understand why people were having such a difficult time deciding what to do.

And that spoke to the writer in me. We have to create that tension with our words. Switching the cameral angle proved just how critical that perspective can be. Sometimes, when we're deep into a scene, we don't remember to look at it from other angles. But doing that may make a huge difference!

In my case, it meant rearranging some chapters.

What does it mean for you? Have you ever needed to change your perspective on anything? Think about the scene you are writing today? Would changing your perspective improve it?

While I was waiting for my editor's letter, I did some cleaning up in my office and discovered a box that had copies of Christmas in Hiding. I'd like to give away a copy in celebration of my sale. Let me know in the comments if you'd like to be in the drawing!








47 comments:

  1. Hi Cate:

    In philosophy we talk about 'seeing' and 'seeing as' and how this affects perspective. I've taken classes in movie making where there is a heavy emphasis on camera angles and different lenses used to change perspective and the emotional impact of the scene.

    For example: take an abstract painting in a museum which to you may see as a pretty blur of colors. You might even take it for a Jason Pollack painting. However, when a guide tells you that the painting shows Don Quixote on a horse about to attack a windmill you then see it that new way and you probably will never be able to see that painting 'naively' as just pretty colors again. That's the difference between 'seeing' and 'seeing as'.

    I've often noticed that this comes in to play in a big way in the first chapter of novels. The writer has been familiar with the whole story for months, even years. The reader has never seen it before. While the writer knows all the characters, the setting, and everything else, that's not always the case of the reader. I've read first chapters that make no sense to me until I read further into the book. And this can come from very experienced authors.

    I also find first chapters that are painfully choppy. I asked one author, "How many times did you rewrite that chapther?" She said, "about fifty times."

    I knew it. It had been rewritten so many times that the author no longer really knew what was currently in it.(It was a long chapter.) Sure, it all made sense to the author when you add in all the past revisions which the author thinks are still in the chapter but no longer are.


    This was the case in one book where the pronouns were so ambiguous and the characters so many that I didn't know what character did what to whom. To find out who was killed I had to read deep into the second chapter. Not good in a syspense/mystery book.

    How could an author miss this? Because everything was perfectly clear to the author. For this reason I always recommend authors have fresh readers who have no prior knowledge of the story read the first chapter.This is especially important when publishing Indy books.

    Story:

    A mean dog once attacked Abe Lincoln as he walked past a farm. Abe picked up a nearby pitchfork and killed the attacking dog. The farmer heard the noise, came out to the road, and wanted to know why Abe killed his dog.

    "He was attacking me." Abe said.

    "Well, why didn't you hit him with the other end?"

    "I'll ask you the same thing: why didn't your dog didn't attack me with his other end."

    It's all a matter of perspective or 'whose ox is being gored'. (That's from LBJ.)

    Please put me in the drawing for "Christmas in Hiding." It's a great title for a LIS.

    Vince

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    1. Vince, I think we definitely need someone with fresh eyes to read our stories! I know Janet and Lindi find a lot of things that are not on the page--yet they're in my head and I failed to get them on "paper."

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    2. You've got to love Abe's wisdom, Vince. Thanks for sharing that story.

      That problem you described is one I worry about a lot. I'm particularly concerned about that now because most of my revisions are to the first part of the story. I'm so afraid of leaving out something crucial that will make something later not make sense. Good thing I have great editors.

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  2. Cate, I'm so excited that you have a new LIS releasing in January! Persistence paid off!!

    Thank you for the timely post on Perspective. I'm currently trying to rework one of my older manuscripts. I'm hoping that the two years I let it "rest" will help me view it with a new perspective so I can make the changes needed in order to sell it to my publisher.

    I already own, and love, "Christmas in Hiding" so no need to put me in the drawing.

    Rhonda

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    1. Rhonda, I've found that time away from a manuscript really does help!

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    2. Thanks, Rhonda. As you know too well, I had lots of time away from this manuscript. But I never gave up on it.

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  3. Congratulations on the sale, Cate! Perspective is such a funny thing, isn't it? It's so good for us to try and see things from different sides--and this works in ALL areas of life, doesn't it? Thanks for sharing a great post and the great news!

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    1. It does work in all areas, Glynis!

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    2. Thanks, Glynis. I think sometimes it takes something startling us to make us look at things differently. Or maybe that's just me. LOL

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    3. I was talking with my husband about this post and he is a photographer/videographer who uses a drone. And he agreed that it amazes him still sometimes that when he gets the drone even just 10 feet off the ground what a difference it makes in a shot.

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  4. Cate, I've been so overjoyed for you!!! I'm so glad you stuck with it. I can't wait for your new release!! Congratulations again!

    As for perspective, what a great post! I laughed out loud when I saw that face in the post! :) I can't believe you never saw it! But if you hadn't changed perspective, you never would have seen it. I'll be sure to keep that in mind as I'm working on my story!

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    1. You could have struck me dumb when I saw it, Missy. I keep hoping to see someone I know outside on that block so I can ask if it was only me or if none of them saw it either. Now the big debate in my family is whether it was intentional or not. I feel like it had to be, but my daughters didn't think so.

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  5. Mary Cate, I am so excited to finally be able to celebrate publicly with you. I'm so proud of you for exercising persistence. And I love those pictures. One almost looks as though she's sticking her tongue out. I love those glimpses of Brooklyn you share with us. But most of all I love that you have a book coming out in January!!! Congratulations, Mary Cate!

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    1. Thanks, Mindy. I love those faces. They just look so happy.

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  6. Congrats on the new contract! Now you'll be seeing those banisters faces all the time...the next step is giving them voices! :D

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    1. It's true, Erica. I've become obsessed with them. Makes the dog walks more interesting as we seek them out, It's funny because some blocks have them all down one side, but totally different (much simpler) ones on the other side

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  7. Congratulations on your new contract Please put me in the drawing for your book Christmas in Hiding I would love to read it! Thank you for such a wonderful post!

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  8. Congrats on your story going to contract, Cate! I loved seeing the faces.

    I don't like heights, but in my youth, I tried diving off the high board...about 15 feet high. Nothing like the one in your video, yet I was the kid who had to back down. OK, a few times, I jumped, but I always regretted climbing the ladder in the first place.

    Aren't editors great? At least, the good ones are. Mine is always right. Her perspective is always spot on. As you mentioned, I'm the one who needs to look at my story in a new way, at a new angle. Then, I see her point and am always grateful for her expertise. :)

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    1. Since we share an editor, I have to agree. Now I just have to figure out how to incorporate the changes without making the kinds of mistakes Vince referred to.

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  9. It is all about prospective. In the editing process of my newest book a line editor made a comment like "Oh wow that explains his attitude." Attitude? Until that moment I didn't realize he had one. lol I knew my hero's motivation so well I didn't see what someone 'observing' might see. I loved the pictures of the banister faces. Just imagine all the things they have seen over the years.

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    1. That made me laugh, Jamie. Yup. That goes along with what Vince said. We know our characters almost "too" well.

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  10. Enjoyed reading your blog. I am afraid of heights and would never consider skydiving. My son and his wife have done it. My husband wants to try it. I've gotten a tiny bit better at tolerating some high places, but not a lot. Guess I need a new perspective! As you know, I loved your book 'Christmas in Hiding" and am so looking forward to your second book. Thanks so much.

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    1. I do in deed, Jane. Your encouragement came just as I was finishing this one, so thank you for the boost!

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  11. Hi, Cate! I'm so excited for your new contract (and I've read the wonderful Christmas in Hiding so please don't include me in the drawing). Perspective is such a great topic for writers. I remember taking an art class in elementary school as the first time anyone ever introduce me to perspective. And today I loved those pictures of the faces on the stoop pillars. Thank you so much for some new ways to look at this topic.

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    1. Tanya, yes, I remember our art teachers talking about that too. But I just remember it as converging railroad lines - or maybe that was some other topic. Thanks for your kind words about my books.

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  12. Such an interesting post, I would love to be entered in the giveaway

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  13. Cate, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!! Happy dancing in wet, cold, misty and gray Western New York, but in my heart the sun is shine-shine-shining for you!!!!

    This is so cool, and you know, working with my editors, I'm always amazed that their perspective can give a new round of polish on a story and it's for that very reason... perspective. Sometimes I find that I can fix things that seem just off slightly by changing perspective for the character.

    You're absolutely right, it's a game-changer.

    I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Ruthy. They are VERY good at their jobs and they make us look even better! Nice of them to do that.

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  14. I would like to be entered in the drawing. Thank you. Such an interesting post.

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  15. Congratulations, Cate. I look forward to reading this new book. I already have Christmas in Hiding so no need to put me in drawing.

    I have a friend who sees faces in everything and collects the pictures. I'm sure she would have seen them! She would probably go nuts with all of those!

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    1. Thanks, Sandy.
      I was thinking of your reply as I was washing the glass dish to my microwave. I saw a face!

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  16. That's great news Cate! Congrats.
    Changing perspectives is a great reminder for life. Sometimes we need to look at life from a different perspective and that can make all the difference.
    Please enter me in the draw.😀

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    1. Will do, Lee-Ann. Changing our perspectives makes like more interesting.

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  17. Congratulations, Cate! So cool! And thanks for such an interesting and thought-provoking post!

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  18. Cate! Congratulations on the new contract! You are so deserving of the opportunity to get your stories out to the world again!!!

    Perspective is such a finicky thing, isn't it? In my prior lifetime, I was a space planner for commercial spaces. My forte was whipping up a perspective sketch for my clients so they could envision what our open-office concept would look like in their old, comfortable work area. Just seeing what the end result would be opened their eyes to potential they had realized.

    That works for our writing, as well!!

    I loved the pics!! Thanks for sharing and CONGRATS again!!

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    1. Audra, that is so cool. I sometimes wish I could hire someone like you for my house. I don't have that kind of vision.

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  19. Congratulations on your new LIS contract! I LOVE your "perspective"....so true. As I try to polish my manuscript, I'll use your advice to look at my words from a different angle...and see new possibilities to make my story stronger. Thank you, Cate.

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    1. Hi Sherida. I'm so glad you found the post to be helpful. As I head into a day of revisions, I need to remember it myself.

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  20. .
    "The early bird gets the early worm."

    How good is it to be early?

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    1. Um, I guess it depends on how much you like worms????

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  21. I'm a little late Cate, but I love this post!

    I can definitely see the face on the posts.

    I'm so proud you pushed through and did what it takes to get this story on your editor's desk.

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    1. Thank you, Connie. This one felt even more satisfying than the first sale because of all the life stuff I had to push through to get there.

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