Mental Health Monday–It’s All About Perspective


Ever read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave from The Republic? The gist: People are chained in a cave and are only able to see shadows cast onto a blank wall in front of them. They believe this is reality. They are bound by their perspective and they are prisoners of it. Only when they escape do they see another side of their existence and find the “real” truth.

His question (as I understand it) is: In a world of subjective beings, does absolute truth exist?

I ask: Does it matter? (Disclaimer: I ask this question in regards to writing, not ethics, religion, politics, etc. Okay? Okay.)

Our job as writers is to capture and highlight our characters’ experiences. We are charged with describing their world, their motivations, their emotions and drives. An important feature in that is developing tension and conflict. This works much better when we use smoke and shadow, right? Think about it. The people we construct must abide by the rules we put in place for them. They must make decisions based on information they know, regardless of how “true” it is. They have to figure out for themselves if their nemesis is really offering reconciliation or if it’s a trap. They need to take a risk that their love interest isn’t going to stab them in the back. They have to trust, even when the stakes are high.

So, how do you use a character’s perspective as a conflict generator?

As an aside, this isn’t directly linked to mental health, per se, but really, anything connected to philosophy, thoughts, emotions, reactions, and motivations can be considered mental, don’t ya think? (See, it’s all about perspective. *wink*)

Don’t forget to check out Lydia’s post on Medical Mondays!

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6 comments on “Mental Health Monday–It’s All About Perspective

  1. amie borst says:

    you are absolutely right! the characters are directly limited to what they know. there is a fine line between that, however, and letting the reader in on some of the rules, too. because it’s vital that the readers understand.

    as for me – there’s no real way that i formulate what my characters know and what they don’t. it’s a kind of magic that works itself out along the way.

  2. Lynn Rush says:

    LOVE that picture. So telling, isn’t it? Such a great post. You got me thinking this early, Monday morning!! 🙂

  3. Lua says:

    Great post, very thought provoking… The concept of “absolute truth” was why I quit practicing law and the fact that its quiet meaningless is why I love fiction. When I’m writing, I could care less about what’s true or what’s not. The whole point it, like you said, “is to capture and highlight our characters’ experiences. We are charged with describing their world, their motivations, their emotions and drives. An important feature in that is developing tension and conflict.”

  4. Oh! I love that photo! How beautiful, and how sad.

    Great post!

  5. Lydia Kang says:

    Man, it’s been a looooong time since I read Plato, but actually I think about this concept a lot. It’s great fodder for fiction writing, for sure.

    Hey…I was thinking last week about lithium. I’m fascinated about single elements that are used in medicine (like gold). Any chance I can sway a Mental Health Monday on the brief history of lithium? Pulleeeezze?

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