I had heard about this hip hop musical about one of America's Founding Fathers, and I became curious to find out what such a combination would sound like. I listened to it once, twice. And then it happened: I became obsessed with the musical "Hamilton: An American Musical" by Lin-Manuel Miranda. He's a gifted storyteller, bringing the story of the man on our ten dollar bill to life. But one line that stood out at the beginning changed the way I looked at the book I'm currently writing: Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?
As writers, we often look to who lives or dies in our stories, but we should also be looking at who is telling the story. Each scene comes from one person's point of view, and if you flipped that it could change how it plays out. After all, two people witness an event, and you'll get two different stories about what happened. The major details may agree, but the little details could change depending on who is telling the story at the time. Similar to the Japanese film, "Rashomon", the truth of what happened depends on who is speaking.
How can we apply this to our writing? Often, we pick whose point of view a particular scene is from by who has the most at stake. But we could add depth to our story by looking at how it would play by changing the POV. Each character comes in the scene with a particular agenda, hoping to steer the story based on that. If my hero wants to convince the heroine that they need to take their relationship to the next level, then he will manipulate his dialogue to get the desired outcome. But what if that same scene is from the heroine's point of view who wants to keep the status quo. She will use her dialogue and body language to emphasize the need to stay the same. Depending on whose point of view you choose will determine the words and mood of the scene.
By coming at the same scene from different points of view, I can determine the strongest thread of action. It will also influence the direction of the plot since I tend to write by the seat of my pants rather than by methodically planning. It's brought up some surprises and twists that I hadn't expected. I hope it's also created some depth in the characters since I'm going deeper into what they see, feel, think.
Hamilton believed in the power of words. He used them to create and to destroy. Miranda believes in the power of music and story. And me? I know that we need to find out who lives, who dies, and who tells our story.