Fiction is about empathy. Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes helps us to understand the world on a different level, and to relate to our fellow humans in a deeper, more complicated way.
A lot of writers strive to make their main characters likeable, especially if the POV is written from a close perspective. To that end, I think there’s a tendency to write characters we like personally, so we can make other people like them, too. (I’m all for unlikeable characters, BTW, but that’s another blog post.)
But what if we tried to write from the POV of someone we didn’t like?
That’s the challenge I’m setting today. Write from a close perspective (try to do first person) about someone you know and really don’t like–without making them a monster. Maybe you can even make them sympathetic.
The mornings are the worst. There are joints in my body I did not know existed until they began to ache, maladies that seemed like the first steps toward death.
But I do not die. I lie in my bed, flexing my feet to get the blood flowing. My physical therapist recommends this and though she is the most irritating woman I’ve ever met–a gnat in running shoes and over-tight spandex–it is helpful.
My wife is already up and making coffee in the kitchen. I can’t drink coffee anymore but it doesn’t keep her from brewing it each morning and leaving half a pot wasted in the pot before leaving me alone for the morning while she does whatever it is women do in the mornings by themselves.
“Good morning,” she says when I appear in the doorway. I lean heavily on my cane but she does not come to offer her arm. She’ll need her own cane soon enough. Still, she does not spare me the indignity of this scrap of drug-store metal and plastic.
I can smell that she hasn’t made breakfast. Full makeup and hair, but no eggs on the stove. She’ll claim it’s because of my cholesterol but in fact she can’t wait to get out of this house. Wherever she goes, whatever she does, it’s better than staying here and talking to an old man.
She kisses my forehead and hands me a bowl of cereal. “I’ll be home after lunch today,” she says. “There’s a nice big salad in the fridge.”
And then she’s gone. I’m still in my pajamas, which will take half the morning to remove and replace with my Dockers. But no one will see this. By the time I get to physical therapy this afternoon, my joints will be warm enough to walk without aid. Perhaps I’ll see the neighbor across the street when I venture out to check the mail.
I didn’t say it was easy.
Share yours in the comments!
A few more writing prompts: