Perceptions of Reality: Fact or Fiction

Individuals perceive and process information uniquely. As we progress through the second week of May, let’s think about how our characters or speakers of our poems interpret the world you create for them.

Last week I had to buy new tires and the shop was swamped so I took advantage of their fantastic shuttle service and got a free ride home. I started talking to the driver and asked him if he was an Arkansas native. He said that he was. Then he said that he was sure I wasn’t because I didn’t talk with a southern accent. We just happened to be driving through downtown and I was able to point out the hospital where I was born. We had a good laugh about it. This got me thinking about perception.

How do your characters perceive reality? More specifically, does one character’s opinion of reality differ from the reality you have created for another character?

Think about how your character puts the pieces of reality together to figure out what’s going on. Characters, like people, sometimes don’t have all the information they need to make an informed decision.

There’s a phrase in the medical field that goes something like this: when you hear hoofbeats, think horse, not zebra. The logic is that when you are looking for answers, nine times out of ten the simplest answer is always the right answer. Unless you live in a place where zebras are commonplace, if you hear hoofbeats they are probably going to come from a horse. Or your character’s version of a common entity.

So today I encourage you to use this to your advantage. Surprise your character. If they hear hoofbeats in the distance, will they think “horse” and be right? What happens if they are wrong?

Happy writing!

Reminders:

Those of you participating in the May Contest, #gowrite.

Stay tuned for a new sprint coming Friday, check out the previous sprints here and here.

Announcements:

We are looking for Beta readers to help with giving feedback to the May contestants. Drop a line in the comments if you’re interested.

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About 409writinglife

Jessica Halsey was born in Arkansas and has lived most of her life in the United States and Panama. She earned a BA in Sociology from Randolph-Macon Woman's College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Would you like to know more?
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6 Responses to Perceptions of Reality: Fact or Fiction

  1. t.s.wright says:

    What did you do with your accent?

    I love the idea of surprising your character. As long as the zebras aren’t in abundance.

    I was just saying to someone the other day that working on a novel can get boring at times because we already know how the story ends. It’s so easy to become distracted by brand new story ideas and shiny new characters, but if we don’t stick to story one and see it through to the end we are just as likely to abandon story two in the same way. I think throwing your character a curve ball is also a great way for the writer to stay engaged.

    Liked by 1 person

    • skyllairae says:

      I am a “southerner” but I traveled a lot as a kid and don’t speak with a “traditional” southern accent. I only sound southern when I’m really tired or drunk lol. I agree with what you say about characters and knowing the end. It’s really great to find strategies to help stay engaged.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Revealing how a particular character perceived and reacted to their surrounding reality was my entire motivation for writing. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that ten “regular” people can witness the same event and each come away with an entirely different report of what occurred — another friend and I were speaking the other day on how one’s life’s experiences have a direct influence on how specific moments, or events, are perceived.

    I witnessed a lot of tornadoes growing up in West Tennessee and spent many a night in a hallway beneath a mattress while my fearful mother stood guard over us, so I knew a certain dread when my husband and I were moving out to Southwest Oklahoma several years after the last time my mother pushed me into an interior hallway. And then…

    One afternoon on the long drive home from work, I heard thundering hoofbeats over the roar of the highway. And then, with no warning whatsoever, I saw the dark blue Oklahoma sky swirl and sink in on itself and go blood red while dust rose up from the ground to form dense columns that an invisible hand wielded to thwack against fence posts and old trees, and I heard the wind howl like dying men. Hundreds of dying men. More debris and dust gathered in a cylinder that rolled over me — firewood, tires, trees, shards of glass slammed against my car that only a moment before was doing 80 down the highway and was brought to a halt by the force of that howling oncoming wind and all its solid, sharp-edged density. I thought surely the Apocalypse was upon us. All I wanted to do was sit there and watch for what might happen next. I recognized that the cold clamminess of my skin meant that I was terrified, but my hand itched for my camera. In the first moments after the howling stopped I knew that I would never fear the sickly green of pre-tornadic sky ever again. I never left the house without my camera after that.

    Funnel clouds. Pfft.

    So, yeah. When I hear hoofbeats, I look up at the sky.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Weekend Wrap-Up | Brigit's Flame Writing Community

  4. Pingback: Weekend Wrap Up | Brigit's Flame Writing Community

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