For this exercise, we’re taking a look at some non-fiction writing. There’s no need to go digging for an autobiography or grab that reference book on nineteenth-century swords. Rather, today we’re getting into some personal writing. I hope you’re ready for an uncomfortable exercise.
Today, your challenge is to write about someone you don’t like. Maybe that’s an old schoolteacher who always seemed a little too harsh on you. Maybe it’s a family member who clearly favored your sibling or your cousin. A former friend that ultimately ended up not being such a great friend. Someone you know personally and perhaps have known for some time.
To start, take a few minutes and write about one incident with them that firmly reinforces your feelings towards them. Write it from your own point of view and try to recapture every detail you can remember about that particular incident or person and how awful it was.
Now, write about that incident a second time from their perspective. This time you should try to keep in mind that they had a reason for what they did. No one believes themselves to the villain, so try to find a reason they would use to say they were in the right. Think back to those details that made that experience awful for you and think of how they might have shaped that moment for your chosen person. What in that scenario makes you the antagonist?
The whole point of the exercise is actually to help you figure out how antagonists and perspective work, and to force you to write from outside your comfort zone. This is one piece you don’t have to share with anyone, but really dig in and see what makes your chosen person tick. Why do they act the way they do towards you?
Also keep in mind while doing this that what people believe can skew how they feel about things. Whoever you’re writing about has a reason—but that reason doesn’t have to be a good reason, just one they believe in.
When you’re done, take a short break if you need to. Come back later and compare the two pieces. They should be about the same moment in time, but how different are they from each perspective? Think about how hard it was for you to see it from the other person’s eyes. You don’t have to agree with them, but you do need to understand that they have a reason for what they do.
This is not intended to be an easy exercise. It’s intended to force you to look from another perspective, from another view.
2 thoughts on “Exercise: From the Other Side”
Truth be told: when narrating an incident that happens, we tend to narrate it in a way that favours us. Let’s learn to see things from different perspectives and that way we’ll stop jumping into conclusions and assuming horrible things.
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Absolutely! It’s hard sometimes to get outside of ourselves and see it from another side, but it really does inspire new growth and empathy.