“What is the key to spellbinding, page-turning writing? Emotional connection between your readers and your characters! Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, learning the secrets of deep POV will make your writing come alive in the hearts of your readers.” Simon Presland
Deep POV (deep penetration point of view) is intimate or limited third person point of view. This style of writing doesn’t just put the reader in the car with the main character, or even in the passenger seat, but puts them in the character’s lap in the driver’s seat. The reader wants to experience in real time the vibrations in the wheel, the wind in her hair, see what’s in the rearview mirror, and feel the slide of the stick shift into the next gear.
One of the best advantages to learning deep POV is that it almost entirely eliminates telling in your writing. Check out our post on 5 ways to know if you’re showing or telling. Here’s a crash course in deep POV:
Tip #1 – Eliminate Distance and be Immediate
For deep POV, readers want to be in the action as it happens.
Tony watched as a beautiful woman walked across the room. He felt his body react until he saw her greet a tall young executive with a kiss. What he wouldn’t give to switch places with that guy, he thought. Ho Hum
In deep POV: Tony leaned forward, mesmerized by the swish of her short skirt as she strutted across the room. Hands trembling, he swiped at the sweat budding on his forehead. She stopped in front of a seated executive in a power suit and greeted him with a possessive kiss on the lips. Figures. Tony’d give anything to switch places with that guy.
I put you in the action of the scene by removing he watched, he saw, he felt, he thought. I added emotion by showing how he was feeling through a physical reaction. Remove words or phrases that keep readers at a distance such as: watched, felt, knew, saw, appeared, looked, seemed. Every sense, thought, feeling must be immediate and transparent to readers so sparingly use words like as, when, until, etc.
Tip #2 – Emotions
Deep POV is more than just internal dialogue (a character’s thoughts). Deep POV is concerned with emotions primarily, those gut reactions that influence our thoughts and actions – something we all do often without realizing it. Show a character’s emotions through what they see, hear, feel, sense, remember, experience, etc. You need to invoke all the senses and dig deep for a full range of emotion within a character’s personality and motivations to pull this off. Make your readers care about your character, and they’ll keep reading.
Exercise: I picked up this exercise from Getting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors. Think of a recent event or experience that brought out a strong emotion in you – love, anger, fear, etc. Mentally relive that event and shut out everything else going on around you. To take this further, capture the rhythm of the moment by patting your thigh – the higher the tension or emotion the faster you pat. After a minute, stop. Take stock of how your body has reacted. Are you tense? Achy? Tired? Is your brow furrowed? Is your heart racing? Your body reacts physically without you being consciously aware of it – but this is how you SHOW your readers what’s going on with your character through deep POV instead of telling.
Tip #3 – Characterization
Crafting three dimensional characters is critical, but in deep POV if a character is flat your story falls apart at the seams. Characters must have a measurable goal – desire, be compellingly invested in achieving that goal – motivation, and have a specific plan on how to reach their goal – plot. A great resource for this is Brandilyn Collins’ book Getting Into Character. Marcy wrote a great post on creating 3 dimensional characters. One caution – limit deep POV to 1 or 2 characters – your main protagonists usually. It can become draining and hard to read if all the characters in a story are written in deep POV.
For example: In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter’s goal through the story is to keep his family together. Peter’s invested in this objective because with his father fighting in the war, it falls to him as eldest to protect his family. He would rather die than go back to his mother and report that he’d failed in his duty. His plan? Keep his siblings safe by staying together and out of trouble. Story happens when obstacles to Peter’s objective force him to deviate from his plan – conflict.
Tip #4 – Voice
Deep POV automatically creates voice for your character. Take the rewritten example above for instance – the woman could have skipped, strolled, stumbled across the room. For the POV character he saw her actions as intentional and attention-seeking, she strutted. In his eyes, she knew that men were watching and encouraged it, enjoyed it, sought it – and it made him want her. That’s character insight and gives your character a voice.
Tip #5 – Memorize this: action, decision, thought, emotion
There are exceptions to every rule, but generally this is the predominant sequence of events when writing deep POV. Every scene should have action and reaction. (If a scene has no action or reaction, then seriously consider whether it needs to be there at all.) Deep POV is no different. Let’s walk through this.
(action) Knock, knock. “Landlord, open up!”
(decision) Danny ran for the window, heaved up on the sash, and climbed out on the fire escape. (thought) I’m dead if he finds out I don’t have rent money again. (emotion) Heart racing, he took the stairs three at a time down to the street, unable to keep the smile off his face.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. It should be action, thought, decision, emotion (the last two could be interchangeable) – and when this action/reaction event happens in our brains that’s how it works. But in fiction, the general rule is action, decision, thought, emotion.
Deep POV is a more advanced concept, check out Marcy’s post on the most common point of view problems if you’re just beginning your writing journey.
Each of these tips could be a blog post on its own. So let me ask you – are you using deep POV? Do you prefer to read stories written in deep POV?
(1) In the comments, answer one of the questions above.
(2) Tweet this post (make sure you include @MarcyKennedy somewhere in the tweet so that we see it). If you don’t use Twitter, you can post a link to this post on Facebook instead (and tell us about it on the Girls With Pens Facebook page).