Authors use perspective to build mystery
I don’t specifically blog about photography, but I was thinking this week about perspective and how it utterly influences the stories we tell.
Whether or not your story features a detective, most fiction – and even some nonfiction – writing is driven by mystery. Readers are motivated to continue reading by the desire to know what happens next and how the pieces of the tale fit together. They want to see what is hidden from their view, the secrets the writer has kept until the moment of revelation.
The perspective from which the author tells the story is significantly responsible for determining what information is revealed and what information is concealed. A narrator’s biased viewpoint, an era with particular cultural mores, a setting with a limited worldview – these all are potential contributors to the perspective we are given as readers. We can’t change the author’s perspective; we can only interpret what we “see” through that lens.
Sometimes the view is clear. Other times, the mystery remains intact until the reader receives enough information to broaden the perspective and see the context for the details.
Photography is remarkable in the way it illustrates the mystery of perspective while often giving us enough information to solve that mystery. Unlike in literature, that epiphany can happen in an instant.
These two images portray mystery through the use of perspective:
I took this photo looking upward at the ceiling of Parasol Down at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas. The varying heights and the geometric elements add to the mystery of this image. For me, it also conjures an imagined memory, an invented scene that could have been found in Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.
This photo was taken at a ski and snow tubing park. Because the scale of the subject isn’t immediately identifiable, and the textures in each element are distinct and compartmentalized, the perspective of the image delays comprehension of the objects. Yet, within a few moment’s time, it’s possible, without further information, to deduce the scene.
I think the parallels to writing are constructive.