Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An exercise in perspective

I posted a challenge to myself yesterday, that Josh and I could write a paragraph about the same space, and there would be no overlap, except for the nouns. I asked if he might take me up on that challenge, and, because he is a kind and loving husband, he has done so.

Below is his two-paragraph description of our bedroom, as posted here:
The room is both spacious and cramped.  My dresser is small and barely fits the clothing I own.  I can't buy new clothes without having to get rid of the something else first.  The pile growing on top, the one that obstructs my clock from all angles but in bed, is a result of my resistance to find sacrifices.  The closet, if I opened it, would assault me with clutter that fills the bottom.  I find the space impractical, and yet I have freedom of movement.  I can make my way around the bed if I choose and access my side without that cramped feeling.  Yet, I'd love to have a dresser just a bit wider, deeper, and taller.  I'd love to get the clothes put away. 
The window has the curtains drawn and shades down when it is in use and is opened when the room is empty.  Not that this makes a bit of difference, the view of the water tower outside is hardly scenic.  The only true scenery offered by the bedroom are the numerous photos, posters, and art depicting different places.  The art represents everything from Boston to Machias to Asheville.  Perhaps it is these gateways that open up the room to give it that spacious feel, or maybe it is simply knowing that our king-sized, wire-frame bed fits in this room that makes me feel like it offers everything I could want.  That is, so long as the closet door remains shut.
And here's my description of the exact same room:
Our bedroom is smaller than the last place we lived, and yet it fits our furniture better. Instead of weaving or twisting to get through tight spots, there is a wide enough aisle on either side of our king-sized bed for either of us to pass. After we got all the furniture positioned the first day we moved in, I remarked that it looked like a hotel room. There was a place for everything, and everything in its place. 
It looks less like a hotel room these days; if it is a hotel room, it's one that's had the Do Not Disturb sign up for too long. There's often clothing or damp towels hanging off the edge of our iron-frame footboard, and laundry doesn't always make it to the basket. I joke with Josh that he dissolves into mist, rather than getting undressed for bed, because I'm always finding a pile of clothes on his side of the room. We both have clutter on top of our dressers, though I keep mine neater, and our nightstands are occupied with the books we're currently reading. The top of my nightstand is dominated by my CPAP machine, leaving very little room for the alarm clock. My books are on the shelf below, and I know my to-read stack has gotten too big when it fills the space.
We both remark on the size of the space,  and the clutter, and the bed, and moving around it. But I point out different aspects of the clutter, and, while I don't get around to pointing out the art he and I spent nearly an hour of precious unpacking time figuring out or the curtains he hung, he leaves out our nightstands and the parts of the clutter that bother me the most. I don't even bother with the closet, but clearly it's one of his priorities.

The bedroom in question -
how'd we do?
The purpose of this exercise isn't for Josh and I to have a fight. We won't; after nearly 11 years of marriage, it takes a lot more than a difference in perspective to rattle us. It's an illustration, though, of the point I brought up in yesterday's post. While Josh and I may both refer to our "cluttered room," our eyes won't travel to the same points within the room, and we're not talking about the same clutter.

In the same way, your characters shouldn't be describing things in the same way, either. What someone notices, how they tell you what they noticed, and what's important about the observation will vary wildly from one character to another. If you refuse to use that opportunity, you're cheating your characters and your readers.

Thank you, Josh, for your contribution to today's post. Everyone, make sure to stop by his blog to give him kudos.


  1. LOL Yes, the male and female pov is often a lesson in o_O
    You can see it here with just a few sentences how your own perceptions make all the difference in the world to how you see the room.

    Love the exercise.

    1. I was pretty pleased with the results. It illustrates the point about perspective pretty damn well, I thought.