Featured Article: Redundant Perspectives
Redundancy can be a real killer in your story—and not in the good way. Whether it is stating the obvious, showing and then telling, defining character actions, or worst of the worst, replaying a scene from a different point of view. This type of redundancy can happen in story or in a second story that retells the events of the first story in a different perspective. The first is a no-no of the story destroying variety. The second is sigh worthy, but if done right can be enjoyable for readers. We are going to talk about redundant perspectives in one story. Sometimes this type of redundancy can be hidden in the guise of alternating perspectives, usually in the first person. I find alternating perspectives to be annoying as well, but I will save that for a different article.
It may be tempting to redo a scene from another character’s perspective. I get it. After all, your readers may want to know what is going on in Character #2’s mind. They may have missed subtleties that they would get in another perspective. Giving the readers another perspective may reveal important information that the reader needs. The list goes on and on, but I would argue that the damage caused by doing such a thing is more harmful than any benefit that the readers will receive.
Rarely can you give enough information to the readers by redoing a scene in a different perspective that readers will feel like they are experiencing something new. Instead, it’s an eye-roll inducing romp through information the reader already has. It’s boring and it’s likely to cause your readers to run in the other direction.
Too Much Explanation
Stop spoon-feeding your readers every detail about everything. Seriously. You have to get used to leaving things to implication because it is your greatest tool as a writer. Subtlety is your friend when it comes to storytelling. A redundant perspective is anything but subtle. Pick the character it is best to tell the scene through and then tell it. If the supporting characters in the scene react properly, it’s like you are telling a story under the main story. The information you reveal will be enough and your readers will get it without being taken through the scene again.
You can really harm a story by removing any mystery in the characters too early. Some things should just be left to the readers’ imaginations. You have to give a reader something to play with, engage with, and to imagine. A telling look is much more effective than a redundant perspective that reveals Character #2 is horribly attracted to Character #1. Think of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie because it was an exquisite exercise in showing. Did you need scenes in Mr. Darcy’s perspective to know he was in love with Elizabeth or were his reactions in various scenes enough? His reactions and actions were much more engaging and inspiring than getting into his head could ever be. You can employ this same type of character-reactive subtlety in your story to great effect.
Beyond this, I find redundant perspectives to be sloppy and lazy. Without a doubt, there is always a better way to reveal something important than to drag readers through a repeated scene. And while it can be fun to give your readers a different perspective on a pivotal scene, it’s not something that should be in your book. Save it as an outtake on your blog, a bonus feature, or better yet, use it as publicity and encourage your readers to write their own take on the scene.
Now back to writing. 🙂