The Other Side of the Story

In ninth-grade English, I had an assignment to re-write a fairy tale from a different point of view.  My partner and I chose “Snow White” from the point of view of the mirror.  While it’s interesting on its own to write from the view of an inanimate object, that exercise was an eye-opener.  Each character in a story, no matter how large or small a role they play, sees the story’s events from a unique perspective.  Perhaps the most important of these perspectives, next to the protagonist’s, is that of the antagonist.

The well-done antagonist has a mind of their own.  They participate in many of the events that the main character does, but they see them in a completely different way.  Sometimes the antagonist is just plain evil–the various stepmothers and kingdom usurpers of fairy tales, villains of fantasy stories, outlaws in westerns.  But sometimes the antagonist isn’t so much evil as just using their point of view to see things differently from the main character.  Because of their past, or their present vantage point, they want something that’s in conflict with what the main character wants, putting the two of them in conflict.

My work in progress is more along those lines.  The antagonist of the book is actually the protagonist’s grandmother, to whom she is very close.  The grandmother loves the protagonist as any grandmother loves her first-born grandchild.  She wants the best for her–but her view of “the best” comes from a very different place than the protagonist’s.  And it goes deeper than a teenager trying to strike out on her own.  Events in the present parallel events in the grandmother’s youth, and the grandmother sees the current events through that lens.

As I forge ahead with my third draft of this book, I am forced to look at every scene from those two points of view.  My protagonist’s view of her grandmother doesn’t take into account all these past events because she doesn’t know about them until much later.  But, unlike in my first draft, the grandmother can’t suddenly start seeing things that way when the main character makes her discoveries.  She sees things her own way from the beginning.  Not only that, but she deals with cultural shifts toward matters such as divorce, high school dating, and abusive relationships.  These things are handled differently than they were when she was young and dealing with them.  It’s been a wonderful challenge for me to keep these things in mind even as I’m writing a contemporary novel.

Have you ever thought about your story (or someone else’s) through the eyes of another character?  What do you discover about the story?


2 Responses to The Other Side of the Story

  1. Brian Kelley says:

    I don’t write many stories any more (no time) so not really there, but with respect to Scripture, yes. For instance, a friend posted on FB about the “he who is without sin…” event in the NT. A perspective that isn’t usually thought through is why everyone dropped their stones and left. It’s typically left at the fact they know intellectually that no one but God is without sin. But that’s not the case.

    Walk through the facts of what happened. Those men caught the woman in the act. So where was the man, since it “takes two to tango?” They didn’t bring him. But the Law says he is to be stoned regardless. The woman isn’t to be stoned if she either (a) is in an urban area and cries out for help or (b) is in a rural area where there is no help and insists she was raped. There is no out clause for the male.

    Now, think through the eyes of the would-be stone throwers. You know what the Law says. And you know that in your effort to trap this man, you’ve broken the Law yourself. However, if He can slip up, it’ll all be okay. But He doesn’t slip up. Instead, He calls out directly the fact that you have knowingly sinned and broken the Law. And He dares you to act to punish another’s sin when yours is so blatantly before your eyes. What do you do?

  2. QNPoohBear says:

    I really like this kind of story. They seem to be fairly popular now probably thanks to Wicked. I try to imagine the other side of the story. What that person was brought up to believe and why they do what they do.

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