When one of my writing groups met at our home not long ago, I asked them to do a fun exercise that you can do on your own.
The idea is to look at the same thing but describe it through the eyes of people who have different backgrounds and points of view. This gives you great practice in getting inside the mind of your characters, knowing that each character will experience life differently based on past experience.
It also helps you get into the mindset of your readers and use language that will resonate with them.
Here’s how it works:
Choose a scene, view or landscape—it can be wherever you are. In the case of my writing group, I chose our front yard, since everyone could see it through our living room window. But you could choose a room in your house or apartment, an intersection in your neighborhood—any place you happen to be.
Now come up with three or four different characters, and write a two-or-three-paragraph description through the eyes of each one. Here’s what I used for my writing group:
Describe the view of our front yard out the picture window as though…
…you’re a naturalist observing a picturesque scene. Imagine you’re writing a report for other naturalists about what you see.
…you’re a visitor from Europe, and you’re seeing the Iowa landscape for the first time.
…you’ve just moved into this house, and you’re writing a journal entry about your new property.
…you’re a Hollywood celebrity, and this is your first visit to Iowa.
The women in the writing group did a terrific job of climbing into their character’s skin. The Hollywood celebrity, for instance, noticed the uneven ground in the front yard and lamented how tricky it would be to navigate in heels, while the naturalist noticed a nest high in a tree and wondered what species of squirrel resided there.
Now it’s your turn. Choose your scene, define your character, and see how the view—and your writing—changes depending on whose eyes you’re looking through.