Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 1, 2018

Writing Deep Point of View Like A Pro: A Checklist

Lisa Hall-Wilson

You don’t know what you don’t know, right? That’s part of what makes writing in deep point of view so hard. I have spent years studying this technique and continue to learn more about it. But if you had a place to start maybe you could get started on your own.

But what if you had a checklist?

I’ve been teaching deep point of view for six years online, and my students have repeatedly requested this resource, so I thought I would first post it here with the good readers of WITS.

The Basics

The basics of deep point of view is often where a lot of books and writers start and stop learning about deep point of view. Without these bits, the more advanced techniques are going to fall flat, but there’s so much more than these bits to build on to really make deep pov work for your story.


The power of deep point of view is creating a sense for readers that they’re IN the story AS IT’S HAPPENING with your characters. This isn’t a question of using past or present tense, instead write as though the action is happening in real time for readers.

Avoid Naming Emotions

Deep point of view takes telling more seriously than any other writing style, I’ve found. If you write an emotion word (to describe how your protagonist feels) that’s probably telling in deep point of view. Instead, show what that emotion feels like. Don’t tell me they’re happy, show readers what happy looks like to them. What happy feels like to them. Deep point of view is IMMEDIATE and PERSONAL.

Limit Distance

If story is a car and your protagonist is the driver, deep point of view puts the reader in the driver’s lap. They want to see what the protagonist sees, feel the vibrations in the wheel, the pressure under the feet from the brake, the lurch as the car shifts gears—all of it AS IT’S HAPPENING.

Some words that raise red flags because they automatically create distance for readers include:

watched, saw, felt/feel, wished, heard, thought, made, caused, hoped, knew, wondered, wanted, believed, regarded, noticed, looked, smelled, realized, decided.

When these words are used to ‘tell’ the reader something you could ‘show’ them you force the reader into the theatre seat and out of the story.

Incorporating Senses

We want to provide readers with an immersive fictive dream with Deep POV so using as many of the senses as possible is important (but maybe not all at once).

Choose one sense, the most prominent detail, to help bring an individual scene to life. The most prominent sense to show/provide insight into your character based on their fears, past experiences and associations, level of tension, etc.

Advanced Deep Point Of View Techniques


Subtext can happen in dialogue between two characters, between a character’s thoughts and their outward actions, in internal dialogue, and in the setting.


In deep point of view, we want to avoid using dialogue tags (he said, she said) because it builds distance and instead use beats, which is bits of action to attribute speech. Take this idea an extra step and strive to use beats but avoid stage directions. Make each beat move the story ahead in some way rather than just attribute speech.

Literary Devices

Many literary devices give readers information about our characters, but it’s subtle. The reader will say what they know, but may not know why they know that detail. Look into devices like foreshadow, personification, pathetic fallacy, simile, metaphors, metonymy, etc.

Character Voice

This is tricky because it’s often confused with author voice. In deep point of view, you (the writer) are not telling the story the protagonist is. How would they describe things? What would they be sure to notice or overlook? Each character will tell the story using their own truth.

Emotional Arc

Emotional arc is another level of intensity for readers. How does the character change throughout the story? Think of a movie like The Greatest Showman. Hugh Jackman’s character starts out pushing against what seem like impossible odds, but when he gains the success he’s always dreamed of that changed him. In order to reach his personal goals, he had to change his priorities, goals, and personality. He didn’t just go back to the way he was before he was successful, there was an arc not a circle.

Layering Emotions

This goes along with the emotional arc. By using emotional layers, you learn to work backwards from the emotion you want portrayed to find the primary emotions fueling that behavior. This adds nuance and authenticity.

Internal Dialogue

Many of these advanced techniques are evidenced in a character’s internal dialogue. There’s so much to learn here. I strive to learn one or two new things about internal dialogue with each manuscript. Each step forward helps you get closer to where you want to be.

Body Language

Become a student of how people communicate. We say so many things to others with facial expressions, posture, tone of voice, gestures, etc. This really goes hand in hand with emotional layering.


Backstory should answer one question and leave the reader with two more. Keep it relevant to the scene at hand. Backstory is one of the advanced bits that bleeds into many of the others such as internal dialogue, character voice, and emotional arc.

Write Tight

With deep point of view, very likely your wordcount will increase. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as every word you use moves the story ahead. It’s very easy to have a character catalogue the furniture in a room without any purpose to it, or recount the physical details of someone they meet when that description could be used to give readers insight into your protagonist.

Intimate Point Of View

Your protagonist can only share with readers what they know, see, hear, feel, taste, touch, assume, etc. If your protagonist doesn’t know something, the reader can’t either. This restriction means this writing technique will serve certain genres better than others. However, you don’t have to use deep point of view for your entire novel. You could use deep point of view to create a specific effect in key scenes to ratchet up the tension or create emotional punch for readers.

Gah! I’m out of space. Listen, I’m just skimming the surface here, but this is a list that will get you started. I am doing a free 5 Day Deep Point Of View Challenge on Facebook in October. It’ll be in a closed Facebook group. You can sign up for the waiting list here so you don’t miss out when I have all the details put together.

What aspect of writing in deep point of view do you struggle with the most?

Get your copy of Method Acting for Writers: Learn Deep Point of View Using Emotional Layers on Amazon or Kobo.

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About Lisa

Lisa Hall-WilsonLisa Hall-Wilson was a national award-winning freelance journalist and author who loves mentoring writers. Fascinated by history, fantasy, romance, and faith, Lisa blends those passions into historical and historical-fantasy novels.

Find Lisa’s blog, Beyond Basics for intermediate writers,  at www.lisahallwilson.com.

32 comments on “Writing Deep Point of View Like A Pro: A Checklist”

  1. Whew. I've signed up for the free face book workshop. I think I do some of these things already but I'm confused, so look forward to the workshop. Thank you for tackling what is still a confusing subject.

    1. Confused? Uh-oh 😀 Deep POV is tricky to wrap your head around. It's just subtle shifts in how you think about story, but it's very powerful. The 5 day challenge group is going to be awesome!! See you there.

  2. POV was the first lesson I learned when I started writing. I discovered Deep POV when I picked up Suzanne Brockmann's leaflet at my first RWA conference, and have been using it ever since. It means getting into your character's head, and since most of my books are romantic suspense, it means switching from hero to heroine's POV, which means switching "who I am" while writing alternate scenes.

    Deep POV isn't any different from first person. You should be able to go back and substitute "I" for all the "he/she/character names" in the manuscript and it should still work.

    1. Yes, many stories written in first person are in deep pov. There's an intensity and depth to the deep pov style that's distinctive. I've read first person stories that weren't in deep pov. It's a style choice that definitely seems to be a more natural fit with deep pov.

  3. I found this post really helpful on the one hand and petrifying on the other! There’s so much to learn and think about with writing it’s a bit overwhelming! I’ve signed up to the challenge.

  4. Thank you for this article. It is very helpful. I need to print this and hang it on my wall. I seem to forget many of these important points when I write. While it is a first draft, I want to write a cleaner first draft.

    Do you think you can still have a deep POV in third person? I've been struggling to write deep POV in third person.(I write romance.) For some reason, every romance I read lately is in first person and it feels so much more like I am in that character's head. It is causing me to question my POV choices. I'm in too far on a series now so I'm not going to change for this series but I likely will in the future.

    1. Absolutely you can write deep pov in third person! Here are some examples:

      "Her Galahad" by Melissa James
      "Paladin of Souls" by Lois McMaster Bujold
      "A Stand-Up Guy: A Novel" by Michael Snyder
      "Dreamlander" by K.M. Weiland
      "The Last Seers" by Lisa Hall-Wilson (wink)

      Game of Thrones isn't strictly deep pov, it breaks a few rules (which is fine but you have to know the rules and why those rules are there first before you go breaking them), but in many places it's very intimate and personal.

  5. I fell in love with deep POV about six years ago. Just love it. I'm always trying to learn new ways to deepen the POV. I took a workshop on it. Read craft books on it. And I also READ authors who write in deep POV because I learn so much from them. Challenges? To be able to pull off deep POV like my favourite authors can.

  6. Lisa, Deep POV is so clear in my head, but I can't seem to explain it intelligently to others .... I'm just going to refer them to this blog! Thank you.

  7. Thank you for this timely article. I've signed up for the challenge. So looking forward to learning more about deep POV. Thank you.

    1. Woot! Me too. It's going to be fun, not overwhelming, and (hopefully) help everyone see the shift required to write in deep point of view so the the techniques and stylistic choices not only make sense, but can be used strategically.

  8. I've written deep POV in first person (both present and past) but I haven't tried it in third person yet. It feels much more natural to me in first. After reading this article, I may have to give it a try in my next short story. Thanks, Lisa!

    1. I prefer writing in third, I find it more flexible--but that's just me 😀 Genre can also determine or be a factor in whether you'll write in first or third.

  9. "Backstory should answer one question and leave the reader with two more." <-- THIS is what I needed today. I'm struggling a bit in my current WIP with that age-old writerly question, "to backstory, or not to backstory..." Cuz I know it's only allowed when I can do it seamlessly. Thanks for posting with us! I just approved a comment or two, so you might want to take it from the top. 🙂

  10. Great tips here, Lisa! I’ve shared them online and have connected with you on your blog and have subscribed with Beyond Basics. Thanks for all you do to assist writers. All best to you!

  11. Aspiration keeps me going! Thanks for the tips. It's a great list. I'm looking forward to expanding my deep third skills.

  12. I've just re-read this piece and foldering all of the Deep POV separately to keep it on hand. I just thought of something to share. Take a look at The Old Man and Sea - it covers many of the points of Deep POV especially internal dialog and body language. I read it just as I began to write my current WIP and before I got into your posts on Deep POV and realized that I wanted to incorporate the inner dialog with my MC. Now I can take all your lessons and Hemingway's influence to the next level! So delighted! Thank you!

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