Standing apart

William Faulkner's Underwood Universal Portabl...

If you have been following my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I am reviewing the Writer’s Digest 25 Ways to Improve Your Writing in 30 Minutes a Day article.  In an effort to improve my writing, I thought it would be a good idea to explore the 25 tips in a blog post for each.

Today’s topic is objectivity.  Here’s the tip offered by Mr. David Corbett:

22. Objectivity
The perils of subjectivity arise largely from overidentifying with a subject, narrator or character in a narrative, and making it (or him or her) the vehicle for a thematic point in which the author himself is overly invested. The antidote is at least as old as the New Testament, specifically Matthew 5:43–48, where Christ instructs his followers to love their enemies. If what I have to say seems old hat, therefore, I’ll be neither disappointed nor surprised.

If you find yourself overidentifying with a topic or character, try to identify within the sympathetic subject, narrator or even oneself a trait or belief or habit that is repellent or inexcusable or just plain odd. In doing so, you’ll enhance the psychological or moral distance between yourself and the object of familiarity
or allegiance.

Another possible strategy is to rewrite the scene or section from the point of view of someone other than the object of sympathy. This forced disconnect can achieve a similar effect.

I have to admit, I hadn’t even thought that this was something I should keep in mind while writing.  Objectivity.  Hmmm, that’s not stirring the pot.  I’m drawing a blank on this one, folks.  Objectivity?

We are often told as writer’s to write what we know – at least, to start with.  It’s easy.  We don’t have to worry about the details of how something could or can be done, because we already know it.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t write about things you do not know, but just that starting out, it helps to write about something you know.

But, also as writers, we try to tell the whole story, which means we need, I suppose, some objectivity to see the story as a whole.  Only when we can see the story from all angles can we then come to understand our story’s path.

Once the holiday season has settled, I’ll have to try writing a scene from a different perspective.  I’ve done so in the past, but for different reasons, so writing with objectivity in mind will, I’m sure, illuminate insights I wouldn’t see otherwise.

Write well.



2 thoughts on “Standing apart

  1. I’m not sure either exactly what the writer is advising, Nila. Objective about my characters? I don’t even know if I can do that. But I think I understand what he’s trying to say, to pull far away from the writing so every story doesn’t become autobiographical and every character doesn’t become me.

    I’m with you. What? Something else to worry about? Heh.

    Good food for thought.

    1. Hey Jaye, I’m glad I’m not the only one a little confused by his advice. I think you are right about what he is after, but also he may be getting at the other side of people’s motives. I guess. Still not sure. But, as you said, it is something to think and worry about. Oh, well. 🙂

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