The other day I was discussing very early memories with a friend. Here’s one of a handful of memories from when I was about two and a half years old:
My little brother was brand new and my mom had gotten him to nap at the time I was supposed to nap. She tucked me in for my nap and then went to take one herself. (Wise woman)
At the time we had a very old little dog, Pepe. My mom had gotten him when she was a teenager and he was getting up there in years. After an initial spurt of jealousy, he learned he stayed on Mama’s good side if he protected the tiny pink wiggly humans. So, he often kept an eye on my adventures in the apartment where we lived.
That particular afternoon I had no particular desire to take a nap, unlike many current afternoons. (Naps are wasted on the young.) So, quietly, as not to wake my baby brother or my mother, I tiptoed across my room and slowly turned the knob and peeked out into the living room. The coast was clear! Grand adventures without parental supervision awaited!
I stepped out into the hall and toddled into the living room. Pepe lay curled up on the carpet. He raised his head and looked at me. I froze in my steps. I had not factored Pepe into my shenanigans plan. He got up, and he did not seem pleased that I was interrupting his nap. We stood there eye to eye. I maybe had a couple of inches on him, but not much. Sure, we were buds, but suddenly I noticed he had teeth….lots more than me. He let out a low bark and I forgot all about the teeth. I raised a finger to my lips and said “Shhhh!”
He didn’t listen. He took a couple of steps down the hall toward my mother’s room, paused and looked over his shoulder, and let out another “Woof.”
“Okay. Okay! I’ll go nap!” I muttered, and ran back to my room. I waited a minute and peaked out, and the smart little bugger had parked himself in front of my door. He raised his head and I shut the door again.
I trudged back to bed; my dreams of unsupervised living room play dashed. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep minutes after crawling back into my bed.
As I relate the story, I can distinctly recall the emotions that I felt and the things I saw and did. It occurred to me though that I have no way of telling that story without overlaying my adult interpretation. In fact, the story might sound silly and contrived if I attempted to write as my two-year old self. Some characters and points of view can broaden the reader’s perspective and give glimpses of fantastical worlds, and others can end up sounding far-fetched and trite.
In writing, deciding who is telling the story can greatly change how the reader perceives the events. Real life gives us many examples of this. Ask any two people about an argument or event and you’ll get two very different stories.
Sometimes it takes sitting down and telling a bit of the story from one point of view or another before finding the one that tells the story you wish the audience to read. Above all, don’t choose a point of view simply because you think it sells better. Always be true to the characters whose story you are writing.