I’ve noticed an interesting trend in my writing. Then I looked around and noticed that trend everywhere else too. It’s so ubiquitous that I don’t even notice it anymore. But it’s so powerful that its very notion breeds curiosity.
The outsider perspective.
The outsider is the newcomer to a country seeing it through fresh eyes, or a traveller through time learning the nuances of their new reality. It’s a blind woman opening her eyes to color for the first time in her life.
Writing the outsider is a powerful tool on a lot of levels. It can be overdone if it’s done wrong. But at the same time, it can be implemented with such grace that you can use its advantages without even noticing it’s there.
The part of writing a book that I despise the most is the exposition. I have a huge world that the reader needs to understand, but my god is it hard to explain without making it feel like a textbook. There are a lot of ways to make this easier though (easi-ER. Never easy.), and adding an outsider is a great one. It’s someone who will legitimately ask questions and need answers because they simply don’t know. Much like the reader themselves, one might say.
Using an outsider allows you to detail your world in a dynamic way that builds characters at the same time as offering explanation. Now not only are you explaining details the reader needs to know, but you can include their reactions to those details to build character on both sides of the conversation. Win win!
This tool might be used a lot, but in my opinion, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use it. There’s a reason it’s used. Explanations need to be given, one way or another, and as an author, your job is to find the most interesting, flowing ways to do that. If this works for you and keeps your pacing where you want it to be, awesome!
Fiction is filled with travellers learning about new things, because that traveller is as representative of the reader themselves as the character they’re written to be.
On that note…
Connect to the Reader
Your reader is coming to your work with fresh eyes, just as your outsider is. I think this is why the outsider is often the protagonist, or at least one of the protagonists. It gives your reader a solid connection right from page one, and a perspective they can relate to. As your story develops, your world unfolds, sharing its nuances for reader and character alike.
A World Through Fresh Eyes
There is something to be said for the notion of fresh eyes. Colors look brighter, sights are more expansive, the mundane is still exciting.
Capturing this essence through an outsider lets you showcase your world to the height of its potential. The grimy streets are that much darker. The sprawling wilderness is that much more vast. The characters themselves are that much more mesmerizing.
Don’t be afraid to use this tool. Show off your incredible world through the eyes of someone lost in the throes of discovery. Once that becomes mundane, tuck in a few new aspects to keep it alive. If your world remains fascinating, then your reader will stay fascinated!
The idea of the outsider is a beautiful concept. It allows for greater exploration of your world while offering some useful dramatic tools for the craft.
So, don’t be afraid to send your characters somewhere new. Let them start at point A so they can revel in point B.
Point B is much more exciting anyway.