Walk a Mile in Your Antagonist’s Shoes: A Writing Prompt

My puss Bert flips upside down to survey his kingdom. Sometimes, from his inverted perspective, he spots a faux mouse not visible from right-side up. But mostly, upside-down, Bert just watches—noticing what I, with feet firmly planted, can’t see.

Role reversal
As a writer, I can learn from Bertie’s up-ended view. For instance, my short story heroine Sharon would prefer to have me present her predicament as if it were all Lars’s fault. Instead, following Bert’s example, I’ll flip the story on its head, step back, and re-write (at least temporarily) from Lars’s point of view.

I expect to learn something from Lars that Sharon would rather I not know (protagonists are notorious for angling stories so they look good!). If nothing else, I certainly stand a better chance of approaching an honest complexity if—instead of just taking Sharon’s word for it—I peek through Lars’s eyes, too.

“And, action . . . “
The 1951 Akira Kurosawa film, RASHOMON, relies on four characters to tell its tale: In the film, two crimes are commited. As viewers, we’re shown the crimes—a rape and a murder—from the perspective of four different witnesses who each give a different version of the events.

Witness box
As each witness—all of whom are also defendants in the case—tells his story, new and contradictory details are revealed. While the crimes in the film are never solved, RASHOMON conveys a powerful message: Truth is no absolute. It is as mutable as the living, breathing creatures that perceive it.

Closing argument
This understanding absolves us of the obligation to “solve” our stories. Instead, we can work to uncover real tensions between those who live in our fictional worlds. We needn’t think in terms of “good” or “bad”—just let our characters tell their own truths.

Writing prompt

What do you think?
Want to play by Bertie rules? If so, tap out a brief scene from one character’s POV. Now, flip yourself upside down and write it again from another character’s perspective. Did your second character reveal something the first omitted?

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This post was originally written for a former blog, Workshop Porkchop. Today, I repost it in honor of Bertie Botts Morris (now passed on to the big catnip field in the sky).

The image of XII The Floating Cat (The Hanged Man) is from the MYSTICAL CATS TAROT, written by Lunaea Weatherstone, art by Mickie Mueller, published by Llewellyn Worldwide and used with Llewellyn’s kind permission.

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