Perspective—the voice that tells a story—can entirely change a story’s meaning, purpose, and feel. Here’s an example: When I was four years old, I was invited to the birthday party of my older brother’s best friend, Aaron. There was a chocolate cake in the kitchen while activities went on outside. I grew bored with the activities and, when no one was watching, crept into the kitchen and licked off a good quarter of that cake’s frosting. I tried to join the crowd again without revealing what I’d done, but the evidence was pretty obvious all over my face. From my perspective, the experience had been something I had always wanted to do, and, even with the very angry scolding I received from my mother, it was worth it. From my mother’s, it was a huge embarrassment, and she felt bad for Aaron and his mother. From Aaron’s mother’s perspective, I was the kid who ruined her son’s birthday party (she forgave me eventually, but it took over a year). From Aaron’s perspective, it was hilarious, and there was plenty of cake still (he was always incredibly nice to me). Thus, the story of the frosting theft could either be one of triumph, humiliation, despair, or humor.
We’re going to play with perspective in this Story Bite. Here’s our picture:
This is a “close,” a narrow passage between houses, in one of my favorite places in the world: Edinburgh, Scotland. There’s a busy street, the Royal Mile, at our backs as we step into the close. Everything becomes quieter. The walls smell of damp stone and are cold to the touch. We’re going to write about a walk down to the end of Borthwick Close from three different perspectives.
Choose Your Voice
Let’s try out a few different types of voices. Pick a character from each category below, or create three of your own voices.
1. A nervous voice: someone who’s looking for their family, or is running away from a bully, or has followed a child or sibling or parent down the close (and the person they’re following has just disappeared beyond the sun)
2. A confident voice: someone who’s eager to explore, or lives in the building at the end (so it’s normal to walk down this close), or is hot and tired and being in the close is a relief
3. An angry voice: someone who lives in the building at the end but wishes they lived somewhere else, or is a visitor and has been lost in the city and is getting more and more frustrated, or is the sibling or parent or child following a family member above and is about to lose their temper
Have you picked your characters for each kind of voice? Now write a paragraph (around four lines, but it’s your choice) of this action in the first voice you chose:
Your character walks into the close, brushes against the rough and damp stone wall, feels their footsteps against the hard stone tiles on the ground, and hears a noise at the end beyond the sun.
Use first person (“I walk into the close”) or second person (“She walked into the close”) and whatever tense (present: “I walk” or past: “I walked”) you like.
When you’re done with the first voice you picked, write exactly the same scene—brushing the wall, feeling their footsteps, hearing a noise (you decide what that noise is)—from the second voice you’ve chosen. And do it again with the third.
Read over what you’ve written. Which voice did you enjoy writing most? Which do you like most now? Did any one of them feel like a good start to a story? If so, this could be a great beginning: You’re starting right in the middle of an action with tension and a secret with that noise at the end.
If you’d like to share this Story Bite with me, please submit it through your teacher or with your school email address or home email address and include: your first name, grade, school’s name (or “homeschooled”), town, and state.
Teachers: if your make story bites part of a lesson, please let me know how it went. And share them! I’d love to see your students’ work.