Sep 18 2011

Come to My Window

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Writers are really window-makers. With words, they construct windows that open out on to the world. When readers gaze through those windows, they’re transported to worlds never imagined or, conversely, worlds comfortingly familiar.

My creative writing partners (below) are to thank for these ongoing ruminations. You see, they’re fond of staring out the French door windows in front of my desk. And, if we’re being honest … so am I. It’s a wonder I write a single word each day.

Macho spots a jackrabbit outside the French doors. I love the bright colors from the setting sun as they warm the hills in front of the house. Click to enlarge.

Each time I watch my cats watching the world beyond their four protected walls, I am reminded of perspective. Their kitty vantage point is much different than mine. They’re lower to the ground. They’ve never wandered through the open desert. They’re seeing lizards, roadrunners, cardinals, javelinas and occasional stray dogs that they’ll only see through a glass windowpane because of the threat that coyotes, mountain lions and bobcats pose. They’re seeing through eyes that have a third eyelid, that exhibit superior night vision and inferior day vision. Yes, their perspective is much different than mine.

Macho is joined by his sister Niña (right) during an afternoon of rabbit gazing. Click to enlarge.

How would your perspective change if you were at eye-level with a baby rock squirrel, like Niña is below?

It’s the writer’s job to paint those perspectives for their readers (okay – maybe not through a cat’s eyes …). It’s the writer’s job to aid in the creative transport from real life to fiction, and to help readers see her unique glimpse of the world.

When you’re looking out the window at the world, you may not realize that the world’s looking back at you. This red-tailed hawk is intent on watching Macho through the window. Click to enlarge.

For Writers & Readers: What do you see outside your window? Not your office window with its skyscraper views, your bay window, or your home study window … I mean the window of your mind. Your metaphorical window. How does it shape what you write? How does it influence what you read? How is perspective important to fiction?

If you want to share your real window sightings, I’d naturally welcome the opportunity to take a peek through your windowpane.


44 Responses to “Come to My Window”

  • avatar Julia Says:

    I love the cats! Very cool office companions, and I know what you mean about vantage point because I think about that with my dog! (And the Nina-squirrel video is priceless!)

    You’ve seen out my “real” windowpane… but as for the window of my mind…. it is far far busier than any real view I see. I cannot shut off the stories in my mind — whether they make it to paper or not. I never ever have a lack of ideas or story lines running in the background at any given time which leads to many possible short and long fiction as well as nonfiction projects. Lately a new thing has happened when I’m hyper-focused on my fiction. I find myself (as I go about my day) feeling like I think my main characters might feel (it is the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced…. perhaps the closest to an out of body or mind experience I could imagine).

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    Melissa Reply:

    I love that video of Niña and I was so thrilled to capture it, because that was the SECOND time baby squirrel came up to the window.First time, I had no camera. I really think he wanted to be friends (did you hear the music?)… Ha ha.

    What a great accomplishment, Julia, to be able to see through your character’s eyes the way you are. That means you are really attuned to their feelings. And I’m happy to know that I’m not the only one to have that same experience!

    I don’t think I have as prolific a bank of stories going through my head though. I have about four novel ideas tucked in my brain, just simmering while I write this WIP. That’s about all the noggin’ can handle.

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    Julia Reply:

    Had to go back to listen to the song — LOVE it 😀 (had my sound turned down earlier!)

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  • avatar Shary Says:

    My dog loves looking out the window and I know she always sees so much more than I can. When she’s excited about something, I get down on her level to look. Sometimes I can figure out what she’s seen, sometimes not.
    When I write, I want to show things in the way I’ve seen them, but sometimes I fall short and my view of the world doesn’t come through. I keep trying, though.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Frustrating when we can’t tell what the heck our pets are seeing, isn’t it? The worst/best? thing one of my pets ever alerted me to (that I could NOT see) was a giant sun scorpion in the house! Kitty was staring intently into the corner, then I heard a giant “plop” as something large hit the dresser drawers (I believe it fell from the ceiling). Yep – a 3-inch long sucker. Ugh. Hate those things! Probably would have SLEPT with it if I hadn’t been alerted by the feline!

    As for your writing: you’re doing the right things. Same thing I do. As they say, “practice makes perfect.” And I do think we get better the more we write!

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  • avatar Sue Mitchell Says:

    This is why I feel like people who feel compelled to write sort of have an obligation to do so. We’re all looking at life through windows. If you are looking out a different window than I am, your sharing that perspective can help me understand what’s really out there. If people only look through their own window, they have such a limited view of things.

    It’s funny, too, how often we feel drawn to people who are looking out the same window we are. It helps us feel validated. That’s why I love your blog. You share many of my values and seem to think about things in ways that are similar to the way I do.

    But it’s also interesting to read the work of people who seem to be looking out a completely different window–in a different building, in a different town, LOL. The challenge is to withhold judgment and just look through the other’s window…very hard when what they’re seeing is so NOT what I’m seeing!

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    Melissa Reply:

    I agree with everything you’ve said here, Sue – especially about the validation we feel when someone else sees things our way. It’s so easy to stick with what we know, but so much more rewarding when we can open our minds to others’ perspectives. 

    Your last comment about people not seeing what you’re seeing reminds me of all the times I’ve been with acquaintances during various outings – wanting to stay to see the ‘scenery’ a little longer, wanting to make the walk last another mile, wanting to visit the Grand Canyon for the two-millionth time … because I see something new every time, because in those moments, I must see much more than “boring trees and mountains” that they’re seeing.

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    Sue Mitchell Reply:

    Boring trees and mountains?! That’s blasphemy to me! 🙂

    This is what distinguishes artists from others, maybe. It’s the ability to see and notice things on a different level.

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  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    Ever since we moved, I’ve been writing outside with puppies curled (or squirming) over my feet. It’s been glorious, and I’ve never before thought how their perspective differs from mine. Thanks for pointing that out; I might just have to get down on all fours and see what they see! 😉

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    Melissa Reply:

    Puppies at your feet sounds like a GLORIOUS way to write! What are you going to do with all those pups?

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  • avatar Sara Says:

    Melissa your pictures are TOO perfect! I think you are photo-shopping everything 😉 That cute video made my morning.

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    Melissa Reply:

    If ONLY I could master PhotoShop. Learned it a gazillion years ago, forgot all of it. Have needed those skills on occasion, but am afraid they are gone. What you see here is the real thing :-).  That video is one of my all-time favorites!

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  • avatar Mahesh Raj Mohan Says:

    The translating of what’s going on in my mind’s eye to the screen is probably the reason I always wanted to create. I can see things so clearly that I sometimes get frustrated if I can’t translate it e.x.a.c.t.l.y. lol. I love the pics of your cats watching the wildlife!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Your comment about not being able to “translate exactly” reminds me of those fleeting moments when a line will pop up in my head (for my novel, or even a freelance article), and if I can’t get to pen/paper/keyboard immediately, it’s gone. It seems like my ability to translate that initial thought just slips out the window. So, in some respects, I know exactly how you feel.

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  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    So funny you host a squirrel this morning. My hubs and I saw our first squirrel in the back yard in years. They used to come over from neighboring big trees all the time, but we thought the hawks and cats must have got them all. Then this morning…there one was. How can we tell if it’s a baby? It looks just like the one in your adorable video. Seems pretty big, so? Some other way? I know you probably know how to tell.
    Those are some enormous jack rabbits! Another reason to keep Macho and Nina inside. Haha! Embarrassing for a cat to get a bunny butt kickin!

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    Melissa Reply:

    I don’t have a magic answer for telling babies from adults, except that in this instance, I had seen the “parents” running around a lot, and this one was about half that size. I had actually watched these little youngsters grow up on the railroad tie in front of the house. The day of that video, two of them were playing and smacked into the window, which was the only reason I was over there investigating with a camera! So fun that you are seeing them as well! Are they common squirrels or rock squirrels (rock squirrels almost have polka-dotted white coloring to their fur).

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  • avatar Angela Wallace Says:

    Lol, Nina and the squirrel are so cute. Your darlings are adorable. Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier. =)

    Through my metaphorical window, I like to see the potential for people to be better than they are, to rise above trials and circumstances and triumph. I’m an idealist in fiction because I’m a cynic in the real world.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Oh, Angela… I love your positive outlook in fiction vs. your cynical outlook in life (some might say I’m the same way… but, ahem, I say I’m just a realist!). But, indeedy, the character who can rise above trials and circumstances and triumph makes for good fiction! 

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  • avatar Leah Says:

    Fabulous post! I love watching my dogs and cats look out the window. I know they’re seeing a million things we don’t. It would be amazing to be in their minds once in a while. I have to say that your cat is so calm looking at that rabbit. My cat would probably have shattered the glass to get to the little guy.

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    Melissa Reply:

    These two ARE oddly calm when it comes to seeing new things outside the window. I thought, for sure, the first time they saw a roadrunner or jackrabbit, they’d go crazy. But they mostly just sit and take it all in. Sometimes, they’ll move quickly and get all riled up (like Nina in the video), but for the most part, they seem almost contemplative. Maybe I’ve trained them well?

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  • avatar Marianne Smith Says:

    Melissa,
    As always, you make me think more about point-of-view. Sometimes it’s hard to decide if you are the watcher or the watched. Fascinating place you live in!
    Ever read Dean Koontz when he writes from the dog’s point-of-view? Hard to do without being corny or heavy-handed, but he’s a master.

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    Melissa Reply:

    My husband can attest to being “watched” after last night when he looked up to see a bobcat watching him spray water on the plants (see photo in right “Twitpic” box. Apparently Bob just stood there, mesmerized while my husband backed up and came to get me so I could take shots. 

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    Melissa Reply:

    Oh – and I haven’t read the Koontz dog POV, and agree that one would think that might be hokey… BUT … I did read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and I think one of the things that impressed me MOST was the author’s ability to write in that dog’s point of view. It really was incredible. In particular, I remember the dog lamenting the fact that parents of the household didn’t leave the boy’s shirt (he ran away) so the dog could sniff it, and feel like his boy owner was there in some way. Wow! And boy did I cry for that dog and its story.

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  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    These pictures are so beautiful, Melissa! I love how the rabbits all look like they’re thinking, “If I hold very still, maybe they won’t see me.” And the video of your cat and the squirrel had me loling!

    You know, I’d never really thought about my window until you brought it up. I think perspective is one of those things we take for granted. We may not be aware of the fact that we have this very unique lens we’re seeing the world through, because we’re so used to it. Or maybe we only start to notice when it contrasts with others’. I’m constantly surprised by the things people notice in my writing, and the things that resonate with them. A lot of the themes are things I don’t TRY to bring out in my writing, but they come out because they’re a part of me. I think it’s like that with most writers. They aren’t self-aware enough to realize their strengths, but as readers, we’re lucky that we see it and value it right away.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I STILL laugh at that video of Niña…So I assume you had the audio turned up? 😉 And, as usual, you offer such astute observations. The example of your writing themes illustrates, I think, the fact that if you allow yourself to write from the heart, WHO you are as a person organically comes through.

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  • avatar Nina B Says:

    I think I’ve said this before on your blog . . . No matter where I am, what age, etc, I tend to look through the “view” of my childhood town. I guess that’s my creative window!

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    Melissa Reply:

    I agree; what you say makes absolute sense – we definitely see the world through the lens of our upbringing!

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  • avatar Suzie Ivy Says:

    Last night my window pictured a skunk. We didn’t see it but my dog got up close and personal. Why can’t I have rabbits and squirrels, take beautiful pictures, and give writers something to dream about? Must I adopt cats?

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    Melissa Reply:

    Yes, yes … you must adopt cats. I can’t imagine cleaning skunk off of a dog! This dog you refer to – is this your new, GIANT work partner?

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  • avatar Beth Hoffman Says:

    This post is fantastic! Love how you captured the kitties watching out the window, and the video made me laugh.

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  • avatar Shakirah Dawud Says:

    Again, your cats are ridiculously gorgeous (those eyes on Macho!), but I have to remind myself that my calico former stray is still a looker for her age.

    I tend to escape into experience through my window, and I find I try not to get too fanciful (so that it feels real to me), but I do idealize a lot so it can be the best “real” it can be–from my perspective. But that doesn’t make for the most entertaining fiction.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I confess that I am a bit smitten by Macho, myself. ha ha. But I bet your calico is a looker (we grew up with a lovely calico, originally named Tabby). I bet your fiction is fab – just like your posts!

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  • avatar Amanda Hoving Says:

    Loved this, Melissa! A change of perspective is one of those things that can make an “eh” story sing. I tend to see those things and people that hide in the background and try to bring them into focus.

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    Melissa Reply:

    So insightful. I think that ability to pick out those “things” is THE key to great fiction. Hope your freelance-fiction juggling is going well. Me … still juggling somewhat ineffectively.

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  • avatar Lori Parker Says:

    LOVE the Video!! Classic. I tend to be bored by my main character and am endlessly entertained by my Sideshow Bob’s. I think that means I prefer to focus on others and not myself. Outside my literal window, I rescued a squirrel by chasing off my 18-lbs cat. Yikes!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Oh MY… Lucky squirrel that you were there. That reminds me of the time my hubby and I rescued a rabbit from the talons of a red-tailed hawk. Seriously… We heard this awful screeching, ran outside and saw the hawk IN THE AIR, WITH THE RABBIT dangling. We made all kinds of noises, he dropped the rabbit, and bunny hid under a bush all day. Mr. Hawk waited there for THREE hours, and FINALLY gave up. Bunny actually hopped away later (didn’t see any blood). I know.. gory story. But I had to share.

    And thanks for your comments on my cloud post. Got some more good ones last week (in my twitpics on the right of my site).

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  • avatar Terry Gibson Says:

    Melissa, What a great post! I have two cats at home which occasionally become my source of perspective. The stories seem a bit wacky sometimes but they make me laugh. I also loved the video and music. Absolutely perfect.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Laughter is the best medicine; I bet your stories are loads of fun! Cats and their antics.. My husband thought up the music; I agree, it fits perfectly (especially since squirrel came to the window TWICE to be “friends”).

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  • avatar Tracy Mangold Says:

    What I see from the window of my mind is oftentimes so much better than the real view. Not that there isn’t great beauty around me but I find that I am sometimes disappointed that it doesn’t match what I imagine it to be or how I would like it to be. Maybe that is why I write…

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  • avatar Patrick Ross Says:

    Once again, great photos, love the jackrabbit/cat staredown. But you didn’t put cute kitties in your post to boost traffic, did you? 🙂

    I like the window analogy for writing. I’m a motorcycle guy, so I think of writing sometimes as seeing the world from a motorcycle, where unlike a car, which is like a bunch of TV screens, you’re in the scene. Walking, bicycles, same thing. But the window is nice because unlike while driving you can move around, and every new angle shows you a new picture.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Whoooo me? Putting cute kitties on my site to drive traffic? Actually – I didn’t think about it that way, but you may be on to something :-).

    And I didn’t know you were a motorcycle man. Hubs and I sold our Harley a few years back; just didn’t ride it enough, but I sure do miss it! Totally agree that motorcycle perspectives are the same as writer’s perspectives – being right in the thick of the action. Ck out my recent post. You’ll see someone there you know… hint: bacon.

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  • avatar Michelle Says:

    Couldn’t resist this opportunity for a caption for the photo of Macho spying the rabbit: “What a funny cat, he has such long ears!”
    Great points to ponder. Perspective applies to writing as it does to art, doesn’t it. Now that you’ve got me thinking, usually I will place my characters outside somewhere in a place with few distractions.

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    Melissa Reply:

    LOVE your caption for what the cats are thinking in the blog post :-).

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  • avatar Fear of Writing Says:

    LOVED the pix of your cats watching assorted wildlife, and the theme song you chose for the video was perfect!!

    I’ve had a squirrel come and stare through the window at me (pretty darn funny) but I never imagined it would happen with a cat standing there. Your cats seem to stay so calm. My two (back when we lived in New Mexico) would go nuts and make strange stuttering noise with their hair standing on end whenever wildlife appeared through the window.

    Your questions were very profound and right now I’m at a loss how to answer. Maybe it’s one of those things where I’m inside my own skin so much I can’t see my own windows. Hehe. Anyway, I’ll be thinking about your questions. And, yes, staring out my office window whenever I can’t keep my eyes away from it.

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