Thinking Outside the Bubble

“Wicked”  brings a new perspective to going green.

We went to see Wicked on its final night at Spokane’s INB Performing Arts Center. It was thoroughly entertaining, but I’m not posting a review. Rather, I want to address the writing lesson offered by this fresh twist on an old classic (or, more accurately, classics – L. Frank Baum’s Oz books as well as the iconic film they inspired) in regard to point of view [POV].

The original tale was told mostly from Dorothy’s perspective. The witch characters barely grew beyond the outlines of stereotype. Glinda, the good witch, was good. Elphaba, the wicked witch, was well … wicked.

But in Wicked, the witches take center stage. Dorothy isn’t even referenced until late in the second act, and then only as a conflict device. This switch to the witches’ perspective, viewed from bubble and broom, represents a dynamic change in the story’s POV. As the tale of Glinda and Elphaba unfolds, good and evil are on display, not as flat attributes of transparent roles, but as intriguing and often conflicting elements of nearly every character on stage.

What does this have to do with writing fiction? It illuminates the value of considering all your characters’ dimensions, both major and minor. Sometimes a cab driver is just a cab driver, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from them as our main character gets a ride across town (or across a chapter). I don’t advocate inconsistency with your story’s POV, that can be confusing. But if you’re stuck, or fear a linear plot line emerging, try experimenting with a minor character’s point of view. They might just see something in their rearview mirror that you missed with your main character’s forward-looking eyes. The results could be wickedly creative.

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4 responses to “Thinking Outside the Bubble

  1. Wicked was one of the rare occasions that I think the production (stage or film) outdid the book. I thought Gregory Maguire’s book starts out strong — with the very aspects you discuss — looking at something with a very fresh eye, but gets bogged down towards the end as if he didn’t know how to finish it off.

    I think the playwrights did a great job of keeping the great and fun parts and making the whole work well.

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    • Someone much wiser than me once said something along these lines, (after being asked how to know when to end a story). “When it’s done, of course!”

      Sounds simple, but can be one of the most difficult parts of writing fiction. Just another reason to listen to your characters. One of them knows where the story ends. They’re there when it happens.

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  2. I would also recommend the series “Tinman”, I believe HBO made it. It was an interesting twist on the Yellow Brick Road…

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