Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 27, 2014

Diving Deep into Deep Point of View

Rhay Christou


photo credit: marianbeck via photopin cc


Agents want it. Editors want it. Readers are begging for it. Deep point of view is all the rage.

But what is deep point of view?

Deep point of view is intense. It not only represents the sights, sounds, and actions filtered through a POV (point of view) character but goes deeper into emotions as well as a character’s unique worldview. In deep point of view the character owns the page and the author becomes nonexistent. Deep point of view allows the reader to live vicariously through the actions, reactions, and emotions of a character.

How do you go deep?

The key to deep point of view is understanding the rules, the tricks, and the tips for getting deep and then using deep point of view to empower your story.

Let’s dive into four tricks that create deep point of view.

  1. Make your tags disappear

While speech tags clarify a speaker, they are blips on the deep point of view radar, reminding the reader he is reading and not living a story. In deep point of view tags are often replaced by action, body language, voice description, emotion.

Replacing your tags makes the story feel genuine.

How the words are said and the actions behind the words act as subtle cues to reveal more about a character, his emotional state of mind and the story.


Distant point of view: “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

From his words we have no real understanding of what he truly means. Does he really not want to talk? Or is he saying something he doesn’t mean? Does he want to talk but not know how to talk?

Deeper: “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, shredding the napkin.

We are closer. Shredding the napkin gives a clue that whatever he doesn’t want to talk about is upsetting him. However, that he said isn’t only a blip, reminding the reader he is reading. He said is also redundant. Reading rules tell us that if dialog is in the same paragraph as the character’s action, then the action character is also the speaker. You don’t need both.

Deeper still: “I don’t want to talk about it.” Focused on his fingers, he tore a long strip from the edge of the recycled napkin and then another and another, until a paper mountain stood between us.

This character’s body language is closed in. He is focusing on something else instead of the person he is with. He is creating a mountain between them. The specifics also give us a bigger context of story. He doesn’t just shred the paper, but tears it into strips. This takes time. This takes concentration. This tells a lot.

  1. Make your thought words/sense words disappear

Everyone tells you to get rid of those filter words, but they rarely say why. Thought words/sense words are telling words. They not only put an author on the page, but also create a distance between character and reader. They are disingenuous to the “real life experience” of deep point of view.

How often do you think, I’m thinking? Or I’m wondering if I’ll get a raise. How often do you think, Oh, I see bad boys up ahead.

You don’t. And if you’re truly in deep point of view, your character won’t either. He will think. He will wonder. He will see, hear, feel, but he won’t add the filter words. He’ll just do it.

Example: He felt the pain shoot through his gut and wondered if he was going to die.

The reader is kept at a distance. He hears what the character’s thoughts are but doesn’t feel what the character feels. He doesn’t think what character thinks. He is told about these feelings and thoughts and as a result there is a filter between the reader and character.

Deep: Pain shot through his gut, and he clutched his stomach. This was it. He was going to die.

No thinking. No wondering. Just what’s happening and the reader is pulled in deep.

  1. Understand your POV character

This is my favorite trick. However, this is the trick that most writers skim over with “Of course I know my character. I created her.”

You know your character better than anyone else, but do you know your character well enough?

Answer the following questions in the character’s voice capturing words, phrases, her syntax, unique worldview. Pay attention to her body language and let her carry you off-topic..

Give it a try: Sit down with your character and see if you discover anything new.

  • How does she carry herself? How does she walk? What chair does she chose? How does she sit? Note her body language. Think about what this is telling you about the ‘who’ of this person.
  • Note how you would approach this person. Is she approachable? Will you dive into your questions or ease into these questions? How does she make you feel?

Ask her the following questions and write down her answers. Try writing the answers in her voice, capturing her words, her phrases, her syntax, her unique world view. Pay attention to her body language as she speaks.

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want more than anything?
  • How far would you go to get it?
  • Why is what you want so important?
  • How do you feel about the people in your life? This could be story time people or past people. Both will reveal a great deal about the ‘who’ of the character.
  • How do you feel about the people in your life?
  • How do you feel about yourself?

Here’s an example of three ways that a writer might write a description from a character’s point of view. I hope Maggie Stiefvater does not mind that I not only borrow from her wonderful novel The Scorpio Races, but that I also spend a couple of paragraphs blanding her work.

On the surface: On the day after the character Puck has decided to race in the deadly Scorpio races, she goes to the barn to feed her horse.

Simple to the point, giving time, temp and place.

Slightly deeper: The morning is raw and early as I make my way out to Dove’s pasture. It’s not cold enough to freeze the mud, however, so I slide and stomp and shiver my way across the muddy yard. I’m nervous but trying not to be.

We have a bit more specific detail. It is nice writing. We tie the cold to her emotional state of mind. She is shivering from the cold or from being nervous. We are deep, but are we deep enough? Could this excerpt only be this character’s worldview or could you find the same description in any novel?

What Stiefvater wrote: The morning is raw and pink as I make my way out to Dove’s pasture. Cold as a witch’s tit my father used to say, and my mother would say is that the sort of language you’re teaching your boys? And apparently it was, because Gabe said it just the other day. It’s not cold enough to freeze the mud, however—only a few years does it ever get cold enough for that—so I slide and stomp the muddy yard. I’m trying not to notice that I’m nervous. It is nearly working.

Just wow! In that short paragraph we have so much more character. We are so deep into her thoughts. All tied together, all bringing forth setting, backstory, emotion. All bringing forth the character’s voice.

  1. Understand your POV character’s worldview

A worldview is shaped by experiences and expectations of self, life, and society. In any given situation a person/character brings those aspects to life in facing a new situation. How he will face or describe each situation or place will be colored by his worldview.

For example: Many years ago, I visited Jamaica with my father. If asked today to describe, the place, my experiences, my adventures, I would inevitably pull out the time that my father and I had travelled out of our guarded hotel into the streets of the city.

As the night drew closer, I was mesmerized by the color, the lights, the crowded sidewalks, the wonder of all that was different and vibrant and glorious to me. A truly magical experience.

My father would have a very different take on those events. The crowds, the noise, the young men standing at the corner with a baseball bat. I’m sure Dad’s heart pounded and I know his hand sweated around mine.

My worldview was that of innocence and the invincibility of youth. My father--more jaded by the news, his life, and his role as protector--saw the exact things differently. (BTW: The guys were really nice, not only showing us to our hotel but refusing payment for their trouble.)

The point is that each character comes to a page with a particular worldview and by knowing that worldview you can manipulate the reader’s emotions and reading experience.

There you have it. Four quick tips for diving deeper into deep point of view.

Keep in mind there are many more ways to explore deep point of view and there are many reasons to break the rules. That’s the great thing about writing. There isn’t just one way to tell a story. Explore the tips and tricks, discover more and then use what works for you and your story.

Above all never forget. Your journey, your story, your way!

Enjoy your journey!

So, constant WITS followers - what do you think? Ready to try a deep POV?

About Rhay Christou 

_DSC0055cropTwo of the things I love are teaching and creative writing. With my MFA in writing from Vermont College, I have had the great fortune to combine them. I’ve taught everything from creative writing to academic writing at the university level as well as writing workshops in the USA and on the lovely island of Cyprus, where I live.

I teach three courses online for Lawson Writer's Academy:  Create Compelling Characters and From Blah to Beats: Giving Chapters a Heart and Diving Deep into Deep POV.

My first novel, I Do Not will be released in May of 2016 by Spencer Hill.

Rhay is teaching an online class for Lawson Writer's Academy in November: Diving Deep into Deep POV.

78 comments on “Diving Deep into Deep Point of View”

  1. Wow. Thank you. The three levels you showed just really hit the bullseye for me. I've been struggling with trying to invest more 'character' into my characters without going overboard, and I think you just handed me the answer. Fantastic post.

    1. Hey Lee,
      I just love character and story and when the two are mixed. I'm so glad if something I said resonated.

    1. Hey Daphne,
      Thank you right back. I'm so excited that you like the post enough to share!

  2. Loved this article! I'm trying to make the same deep POV dive in my WIP, so this article will be extremely helpful come revision time. Thank you for writing this, Rhay!

  3. This is very helpful and perfect timing as the novel I'm about to start working on will be told through such a deep point of view and I've not attempted a novel-length work from so far inside just one character. Thanks!

    1. Oh Erin, I'm so excited for you and your new deep point of view journey. It will be so much fun to jump of that cliff.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I always try to write in deep POV but some of your examples show me I could and should be digging even deeper. Thank you!

  5. Rhay, what a great post, I love the progression from distant POV to deeper still POV. Of course, you know I love Maggie. I'm jumping into another one of your great classes.

  6. This post really opens my eyes to how I can make my characters more real to my future readers. The examples you give are to the point, and so very helpful. Thanks!

    1. Hey Suzanne, Got to love Maggie Stiefvater. There is never anything blah about her writing! Glad you liked the post!

  7. That was eye opening! Thank you, Rhay, and greetings from Greece! (Just around the corner!)

    Maria (MM Jaye)

  8. As soon as I saw your topic, Maggie Stiefvater popped into my head. Scorpio Races, Raven Boys - just the perfect examples of deep emotional writing. Thanks for writing this!

    1. Hey Marlene, Don't you just love her! If you are looking for more deep emotional writing, check out Lucy Christopher's Stolen and Lauren Myracle's Shine. These two, along with many others, will have you on a roller coaster ride of emtions. Thanks for chiming in.

  9. Rhay, this is one of the most incredibly useful posts I've ever read on the craft of writing--thank you!

  10. Thanks, Rhay. Your post comes at a strategic time for me, as I'm nearing completion of my first novel and headed toward deep editing. I've taken two Margie Lawson courses and am considering adding your course to my list.

    1. Hey Patricia. So glad if anything I mentioned could help and would love to see you in class. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Jann, Gotta know them to love them, and it is so much fun getting to know them. Thanks for chiming in.

  11. We've never met, but really, I could kiss you right now. 🙂 I needed this post! I'm doing revisions and I just learned this trick. This post will help cement that learning.

  12. Hey Jenny, Well we can surely hope to meet someday. I do try to get stateside as often as i can!! But I'm so glad if something helped. Thanks for letting me know!

  13. Great tips Rhay. My Margie buddy Jenny (above) sent me here. I miss your classes - just don't have time right now - maybe in the winter. And congrats big time on I Do Not!

  14. Wonderful tips for Deep POV, Rhay. An area where I could use improvement. Are you scheduled to teach any of your classes next year (2015) at Margie Lawson's Academy?

    1. Hey Sia, Glad that the post helped. I am teaching a class starting Nov 3 of this year! Very excited!

  15. Curses! I left a comment, but it disappeared into the cyber-verse. Sure hope I wasn't spammed out of here.


    I'm about to rework an MS to the extent that it may justifiably be a new manuscript. I need to better understand my MCs. I need to kill some supporting characters. I need to fix (erm...find, in some instances) plot threads.

    For some reason, this post (no gratuitous BS) got my writing mojo going. I'm ready to end this hiatus and reclaim my profession as a writer.

    Thanks. I know I'll peek back at this post often to study those examples.

    1. Ah those cyber gremlins, but thank you for taking the time to repost! I'm so excited that something sparked your writing mojo! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Great stuff! Making the tags and obvious sensory words disappear is huge. In my current project it's one of the absolute key aspects of making my narrator's story successful. I feel like I've been getting better and better at tips 1, 2, and 4, but still struggle with #3 (of really knowing my character's POV. I'm still learning the balance of really showing her (whichever "her" I'm working with at that time) thoughts and feelings without hitting a reader over the head with subsequent "explanation" too.

    Terrific progressive examples!

    1. Hey Janet,
      Isn't it amazing all the things we have to remember and work on in our manuscripts. Thanks for posting and I'm glad something has resonated with you.

  17. Thank you so much for posting with us, Rhay! I love everything about this post!! I'm in the middle of revisions and caught myself jotting words for my next "find-and-delete" game. 🙂

  18. Great Information. I would love to be able to share your wisdom in our monthly newsletter with proper credit and kudos. Any possibility?

  19. I learned a lot of this from my amazing editor earlier this year and I have to say, it has completely changed the way I write a story. Deep point of view is truly magical. Great post!

  20. Really helpful article, Rhay. I've just signed up for your deep POV class on the Margie site. (Lawson Writers' Academy - in case anyone wishes to google and sign up for Rhay's class).

  21. I LOVE Deep POV, and one trick ('borrowed' from Suzanne Brockmann) is to go back and substitute "I" for 'he' and/or 'she' to make sure you're not slipping out of character. All your suggestions for hitting the emotional responses are spot on. I'm reading a book now, and although there's no head-hopping, the POV is shallow, and I'm not connecting with the characters.

    1. Hey Terry, What a great tip to add. There are so many ways you can dive deep into pov and keep that pesky author from intrusion. This is one of my all time favorites. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Rhay --

    Excellent blog!

    Since I know you, and your commitment to excellence in your writing and in the classes you teach for Lawson Writer's Academy, I knew your blog would be stellar.

    I wish readers didn't have to wait so long for the release of your debut novel, I DO NOT.

    Your story and your writing are both masterful. Spring of 2016? Wish you book could be bumped up to be released next spring!

    1. You know I'm sending you a million and three huge hugs!! And yep, sure wish I could be bumped up on the release date too!
      Mucho love and huge-o hugs

  23. Hey Rhay! Great post!!

    I'm interested in your deep pov class. I'll need to email you some questions about the one that begins next week. Much success!

    1. Hey Ava, You know where I am and I'm always here to answer any questions. Looking forward to hearing from you!

  24. Hi Rhay. You woke me up to deep POV and I can't thank you enough. Now I'm seeing how to transform just about everything I've written. No more filtering. This blog is perfect reinforcement. Cheers! Helen

  25. Thank you, Rhay. A terrific, useful post. Light bulbs were popping on as I read it. Keeping a focus on deep POV will definitely improve my writing.

  26. You said it beautifully. I get so irritated reading all the he said she said in books, when a simple description would have told us so much more. I'm working on body language right now -- giving characters something to do other than nod or smile. Thanks for the post. I shared the link with my local critique group. Will be good for them to hear this from someone other than me. 🙂

  27. Hello, Rhay! Beautiful name, by the way. I am beginning to understand deep POV even more now and plan on implicating it into my NanoWriMo novel this year, along with the rest of my works.
    I'm currently unpublished and having to start from the ground up again after a Flashdrive mishap... but that's another story for another time...
    I do have a follow up questions of sorts.
    Do you sit down with your characters before diving into the story (your deep-POV method) or while the story is playing itself out?
    Again, thank you so much for this!!!

  28. To be honest Rhay, I saw this class on Margie Lawson's site and decided to take another class for November. The description for your class just didn't give me the understanding of why I should take this class. NOW I do. And even though I signed up for another class, I'm going right now to sign up for yours as well!

  29. A critique partner a while ago commented on my need for deeper POV, so I hunted down resources, studied up, and used the tools I gleaned. What a difference! You summarized so well here! Great tips for every writer. Thanks so much.

    (And I agree that Scorpio Races is beautifully written. 🙂 )

  30. Love the examples! Like I always say, you can lead a horse to water, but unless you dip your face to the stream and start slurping, he's not going to know what do do.

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