5 Tips For Writing Deep POV

“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

What is deep POV?tandem skydive landing

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?

Today starts our second Mary DeMuth giveaway. Here’s what you need to do for a chance to win Watching the Tree Limbs:

(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).


**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

21 comments on “5 Tips For Writing Deep POV

  1. I hope it’s OK if I answer BOTH questions (grin)…I haven’t been using deep POV, but I intend to work on it. Second, I think I would have to read two stories I enjoy, one with deep POV and one without and compare them. I can see the advantages, but because I’m a visual learner, I may fill in some of the deep POV details automatically.

  2. A writing instructor first tried to get me writing deep POV about five or six years ago. Since then, as I’ve heard more about it (mostly from workshops/blogs by Bonnie Grove), I’ve tried to incorporate it into my own writing and notice it more in the books I read (by Bonnie, Lisa Samson, Angela Hunt, and others). I like deep POV in what I read… it’s hard to do in my own writing (just takes practice, I guess!). Tips and examples like this are a HUGE help! Thanks!

  3. I love deep POV. I was teaching myself to write this way long before I realized it even had a name – and since have learned as much as I can about it. Takes practice – and a really good grasp on your character’s motivations and desires.

  4. Thank you for a great post! I try to use Deep POV, but I know I need a lot more practice. I do enjoy books written that way…those are the ones I can’t put down!

  5. Articles written without deep POV are not only flat but typically my response is to not read the article but only skim it just in case there is SOMETHING of value. It is about as exciting as reading a bank statement. I am looking for elements of truth that will impact my reality yet I am disengaged from a heart connection.

  6. I’ve been toying with this deep pov for awhile. The first time I saw it in Randy Ingermason’s book I kind of glossed over it. Now I see the benefit of it in my own writing…. Now the real question is whether or not this “fad” is here to stay. From my reading it is a fairly new concept.

    • Deep POV has actually been around for awhile, but it used to simply be lumped under “intimate third person” or not be named at all 🙂 I can remember reading about the very same concept for the first time almost ten years ago in a Writer’s Digest book, and they were already talking about it as an established concept then. They just weren’t calling it deep POV yet. The reason it seems to be new is that it’s finally been given it’s own name, rather than being discussed as a subheading under third person POV.

      I think it’s here to stay because rather than being some sort of structural device that we’re just using to be innovative or stand out, it’s a technique that places readers in more intimate contact with the character. That said, if our society suddenly regresses and goes back to preferring omniscient narrators and slower-paced movies, then we might see deep POV go into hibernation for a few years 🙂


  7. I’ve always wondered what was different about a book where you say to yourself, I just need to read one more chapter, even though it’s midnight and I have to go to work in the morning and a book I wish I hadn’t bought. I realized the difference is deep POV, because it keeps you involved in the action. The book without deep POV is just a yawn and a bore.

  8. Karen brought up a great point.

    Also, is it a good idea to use Deep POV when writing a young adult novel?
    In my case, I have two POV’s. Can one use deep POV for one and not for the other?


  9. Most of the YA novels I read are general market (because of the younger intended audience there’s no sex, no swearing, no excessive violence) and deep POV is very popular with that crowd. Deep POV is great, but can’t be used for every character. The novel we’re working on uses deep POV for both our male and female protagonists – but a limited 3rd person POV for the other characters. If it’s romance, for sure use deep POV for both protagonists. Ted Dekker uses deep POV very effectively with most of his antagonists in his thrillers. Who do you want the reader to care about? Maybe that’s the question to ask yourself.

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