Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Perception is your Reality (Right?)

As an author I have control of the perception and the reality. The convergence of the two can many times result in conflict, propelling your plot and or story forward. If you think about any plot, thriller, mystery, romance, sci-fi one of the main plot points will be a matter of perception and or misconception. Someone thinks the reality is one way when it is not. (ie. he thinks she loves him, she doesn't, the killer isn't the man at the bank, it isactually your partner, we think the new species is looking for food, they are looking for a hormone we produce)

To me, perception, all to often is actually misconception. It becomes misconception from all of the 'human aspects' of our lives. We paint the image in our heads instead of allowing us to see life and circumstance for what it is. If we walk around all the time relying on our perceptions to equate reality we might as well be not living at all because you are not seeing anything.

A perfect example of this is actually something that has recently happened to me. my editor, God bless him, is perfectly suited to handle me. He knows what buttons to push when and he doesn't sugar coat anything for me. I rely and trust him to do that for me and my writing.

Recently my business manager came across an email he'd sent me in regards to one of my pieces. She read it and by the time she was finished she was infuriated. She couldn't believe that I would stand for someone treating me in such an abhorrent manner. I simple smiled at her, and told her to take a breath. She took a moment and relaxed then she looked back me in question. I then told her to push the emotion aside and read the email again. She objected at first and I insisted, stating that it was the only way she was going to understand.

So she did. She re read it and sat back. I let her chew on it for a while and then asked her what she thought. She was ashamed to admit it but she agreed with him on almost every count. I nodded and said I know, I agree with him too. That's why I have him as an editor.

My friend had determined, in her instinctive protection of me, that this person was somehow being cruel and abusive to me. That was her perception of the email. Once I forced her to reset and realign her mind, essentially taking the emotion out of the equation she saw the logic and truth of his insights to me in regards to my piece. the reality of the email was that he was right in everything he said and he knew I needed to hear it. The perception of that from someone who does not know the relationship is very different than the reality of it.

Another example, I have heard, read and been told that eye witnesses to a crime, while important, are of little use as their perception of actual events will be skewed. I found this illustrated in a blog I read recently. Did Ya' Ever Notice...? Philip Nork, author of "Sensitivity 101 for the Heterosexual Male."

In his blog he goes through how several witnesses of different ages will inevitably disagree on the facts even though the same event happen in front of them at the same time. Mr. Nork attributes this partially to age and social circumstance. I would have to agree with him. I would have to add, however, that while these factors my contribute to the obliqued vision, in my humble opinion, it is the emotion that is the actual driving force of the skew.

Yes emotion. Whether it is a movie, a book, a crime or something as simple as a conversation the individual emotion attached to that event (based on previous events) will skew the perception.

So is perception a good thing or bad thing?

Honestly, it is what you make it. There is a time to go with your emotion, and a time to see things for what they are. A balance of both, like everything else, is the best avenue for success.

So the lesson here as a human? When you find yourself struggling with your own perceptions of the world around you, remember to take a step back. Remove the emotion and take things for what they are. You might find yourself in a better state for having done it and better equipped to make the decisions necessary to make a change if needed.

As an author? Perception is a powerful tool. It can make or break a plot, character or story so be careful.


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