Recently, I listened to the powerful TEDxAthens Talk with Rory Sutherland. He made a compelling case for the value of emotion and psychology and its connection to perspective. From his analysis, he poses that we as creators and engineers rely more on “mechanistic ideas” over the emotional and psychological ones, as was my own analysis of my experience in writing my recent novel. Many who have read or asked about my book in recent months as it is queued up for publication with Pen Name Publishing this fall have asked about the peculiarity of the point of view.
In an effort to provide an answer surrounding the hybrid POV choice (alternating from second to the first person point of view) for this story I should first explain my rationale for the voice of the main character and its unique origins. Story Bends is a Young Adult Fantasy about a boy who experiences severe trauma at an early age. A death memory threatens his sanity as he travels to one of the thin places in between life and death known as The Bends. My decision to open the story with the more obscure second person voice was not a sleight of hand trick, nor was it an aim to tweak norms in the publishing industry. Edward’s voice was not an attempt to break the mold. I wrote him the way he came to me. This was how the character spoke to me, and yes, as writers in narrative prose, we hear voices in our heads too.
Edward’s voice has a measurable application from a psychological lens. It is what is known as the ‘Survivor’ voice. Psychologists I’ve interviewed explain that this voice can emerge in early or latent stage responses to severe trauma. I believe my own experience as an educator for over twenty years, having supported students who suffer from significant trauma, had a direct influence on the development of this story. What I’ve come to understand, that I trust my readers will also appreciate is that trauma is universal. In this story the chronicled split weaves a unique intra-story narrative, bringing immediacy and intimacy paramount to Edward’s experience. It immerses the reader in his struggle by carving into the reader’s own psyche and ultimately creating an imprint for personal connection and a sincere empathetic response. Making the voice more accessible for the remainder of the story was another conscious endeavor. In this case, the narrative shifts back to the first person and was a result of another fine-tuned revision with critique partners and Beta readers within the industry.
In my writing, I consider the power of reframing things and how the story might be delivered to the reader in new and fresh ways. Ways that open minds and make us think without realizing it. My goal with writing this book was to have readers so steeped in the story — so anesthetized by Edward’s experience that they come out of it like a dream, but forever altered. I believe it is how we frame things that really matter and the perspectives we choose to apply to our stories can make all the difference. “What you call it in actuality effects how you react to it, viscerally and morally.”
The psychological value of creative work lies in the “hidden shallows, and impressions” and it has a supreme effect on how we perceive and judge our world.