The Story’s Eyes

One of the first topics we talk about in my lit classes is the first person narrator. It’s easy for students who are new readers of fiction to assume, for example, that the “I” in Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” is Carver himself. These students sometimes feel an immediate block to exploring the story more deeply–for the narrator’s initial prejudice can be off-putting. Yet when readers understand that Carver has created a character through which to tell the story, then they open up to explore and perceive the act of transformation which this beautifully crafted story presents.

In my writing here on this blog, the only “I” which is my voice unfiltered through the voice-changer of fiction is the narrator of “Goofy Love“–and the “I” in the reflective essays, like this one. In “Goofy Love,” I speak from my perspective here on this side of the screen, sharing my thoughts and feelings about the Bough family of Sims as I tell their story, and any references I make to my life over here, on this side of the screen, are nonfiction.

JackWhen writing from a character who is clearly not me, Henrietta Davida Thoreau or Jack Bivouac, for example, the distinction between first-person narrator and me, on this side of the screen, is easy to preserve.

When writing from one of my SimSelves, the sharp line fades.

Clearly and obviously, our SimSelves are not ourselves. We create them to represent an image of ourselves–and while they may not look that much like us, they represent something we see of ourselves in our mind’s eye. So when we see our SimSelves in our games and stories, we often feel a profound recognition somewhere deep in that part of our mind that recognizes faces and form that they are “us.”

The blurring becomes confounded when we lapse into short-hand when referring to them: “Oh, it looks like I’m really having fun at the pool party!” we might say when we see our SimSelves lounging poolside in another Simmer’s game.

Cathy TeaFor me, as a Simmer and a writer, my SimSelves feel like a portal through which I can see and feel. With my other Sims, it requires a conscious act of imagination to place my perspective within them–without this conscious effort, I tend to view them from the outside as an observer. Yet with my SimSelves, my perspective instantly and immediately slides within them, and I look out of their eyes, now a participant in the story, as well.

Still, they are not “me.” They have their own personalities, whims, aspirations, attitudes, reactions, emotions, likes, and dislikes. Sometimes these align with mine, and sometimes not.

And at the same time, it is so easy for me to slide into their perspectives, that when I see them, in my own game or in other Simmer’s games, I feel what they feel–their emotions, responses, and reactions resonate through me. Even if their responses might be different from mine if I were in a similar situation, I still feel the reverberations of their feelings through me.

In this way, my SimSelves bring me into the game, while simultaneously bringing the game into me. The joys, friendships, excitements, happiness–as well as the dangers, frustrations, threats, and road-blocks–of the game through which any of my SimSelves wander are felt and enjoyed or processed within me.

Does the portal of perspective run both ways, allowing our proclivities and imaginative impulses to inform the actions and behaviors of our SimSelves? It’s fun to pretend so and to look for evidence of this as we watch for the ways that our Simselves act and respond consistent with our own selves.

When I was a child, I often played with this raggedy little stuffed Steiff fox. There was something in his crooked expression, half-way grin, and lop-sided ears that I identified with. I also had a Steiff lion cub and bulldog, about the same size. My friend Danny saw himself as the lion, and his little brother Jamie was the bulldog. The three of us played for endless hours seeing the world through the eyes of the fox, lion cub, and bulldog, exploring our inner and outer landscapes through these portals. Even now, when I glance at my stuffed animals on the bookshelf in the art room, I see this trio as Danny, Jamie, and me, and I remember how these three avatars provided us with eyes through which to see the stories of our young lives.