How to Use Your ‘Frame’ as a Way to Lead the Reader
James Harriett, author of several books including All Creatures Great and Small influenced me as a writer, in a way that he could not have imagined.
Harriott wrote of his life as a veterinarian in Darrowby, England, in the mid 1900’s. Although Harriott wrote about his veterinary work with animals during their lives and in their final hours, he also warmly described the people and culture. His appreciation for the country, the richness of the local folk, foods, traditions and culture, taught me that there is more than one way to view life. I thought his books were about vetting animals. To my surprise, they were really about the people. James' depictions of life in England became my first lesson in writing through a frame.
A 'frame', or lens is a way of looking at something. It comes from the phrase 'frame of reference.’ Re-framing means 'changing the lens or way of viewing anything.' As authors we do both. We set up how we want our readers to perceive our characters, setting, scene, and plot. Later we make changes in order to 're-frame', or change what readers think of those same items. For example: In the beginning of our books, do we make the characters appear friendly or dangerous? Is the setting a safe place or not? As writers, we often take great pleasure in leading the reader to develop one understanding of our stories, while planning to alter that understanding in surprising ways. James Harriott actually told stories about the people he encountered, through his view (frame of reference) as a traveling veterinarian.
My 3 picture books http://www.susiecarononamazon.com lead readers to ‘view’ my character, Twee’ in specific ways. Many readers told me they didn't like little Twee' at the beginning of her first book. She appeared very self-centered and selfish, as she complained about her environment. It was fun to lead adults and children alike to see how a selfish little being can begin to ‘see things’ differently. When Twee’ discovered that a storm knocked down a neighboring tree, she wanted to figure out why she was still standing. Twee’ discovered that the rock she complained about most, actually anchored her in the storm. With this understanding, Twee’ developed a new ‘frame.’ She named her rock, ‘Rock’ and determined to take care of him.
As I led Twee’ to change, I also led her readers. By the end of the first story readers began to love Twee’ because their perception (frame, lens) of her also changed. As she developed compassion for one who had saved her, her readers also grew warm feelings toward Twee’. Their ‘frame’ had changed and they didn’t see her as selfish any more.
Writing fiction, whether in picture books or young adult or adult novels, begins with a frame. Ask yourself, “How do I perceive my characters, setting, plot and other elements? What do I want my readers to think about early in the book?” As the story develops, ask yourself, “How do I want to change my readers’ perceptions? How do I want them to view the characters when I bring the issues to the climax?”
Ultimately, you want to become more aware of your frame and how it also impacts and influences the reader. This helps you to build a good beginning and insert elements throughout the story that can lead your readers to change their own thinking, not just about your characters, but also and perhaps more importantly, about themselves.
What other elements do you think of as important in writing fiction? I’d love to hear from you.
Susie E Caron is a Mommy Coach, Blogger, Psychologist-Master, and Author of 3 picture books from her 'Between You and Me' series. Susie created these books following years of experience working with children and families. In Twee', I Am Twee' and Twee' for Two, Susie illustrates childhood feelings and experiences through the eyes of childlike pine tree, called Twee'. When read aloud, Twee' stories help kids to talk about their own experiences and feelings. Susie also writes blog-articles to help Mommies understand, enjoy their children, gain their cooperation and have more fun. In all her work she is committed to help you to repair and rebuild your parent-child relationship for benefits that last a lifetime. Her unique gifts include her authentic presence, an ability to connect at the deepest levels of need and want, and wisdom to share. Find out more at http://wwwSusieCaron.com.