View from the Gallery

Back in January, I proposed an exercise involving writing plot synopses for the story as it would be seen if centered around one of the secondary characters. At the time, I was mostly thinking about it in terms of caring as much about the secondary characters as the lead, but I’ve found another use for looking at the entire story from another perspective, particularly one that isn’t in the spotlight most of the time and might not even be onstage for a lot of it.

If the character is one of yours, you have a chance to get further into her voice, figure out how she works. You can’t expect the entire cast to view events the same way, now, can you? Finding out what this one would notice that another might not, and what she doesn’t notice that you would, can really help in cohering a side character.

If the character is someone else’s, and the alternate perspective is you running a game for them, expect surprises and a lot of questions. After all, you might think you know why all of these things happened the way they did, but the character probably won’t, the player’s not much likelier to, and both of them are likely to be asking questions, including ones on the subject of things you hadn’t even realized might be plotholes.

Either way, you’re going to learn something: it’s pretty much a given that taking that perspective is going to require composing scenes you never detailed out, reexamining ones you did, and overall taking a much deeper look into what’s been happening. A few years ago, I took a while to write up a really long stretch of time offstage and ended up with a much greater understanding of the peculiar dynamic between two of my characters and how I could expect the one who was then still onstage to act; I haven’t really shared it, but I haven’t really needed to, either.

Who makes an interesting viewpoint character for these exercises? It depends on a lot of factors. Whose voice are you rusty with, or interested in trying to use? Who was either important to the missing proceedings, or a perfect observer? Who might have a really interesting take on one of the scenes you’ve already written? And who do you think you’d have the most fun with?

Check it out; you’ll be amazed at what you learn.


  1. UZ says:

    Ha, this is why I often include a ranting character to do character rant summaries. It lets me recapture the story from another character’s point of view for myself as well as the reader.

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