by Lisa Hall-Wilson
Deep point of view is a style of writing that aims to immerse the reader in the story so they share the character’s emotional journey as though it’s their own. This is achieved by removing the author/narrator voice from the writing, which is easier said than done. Deep POV is very popular in some genres and is growing in popularity in others as readers increasingly search for an experience in addition to being entertained.
I was asked by my students if I would create an FAQ for deep POV, and this is the first post towards that goal. These are some of the more frequent questions I get asked on my blog and in my free Facebook group Going Deeper With Emotions In Fiction.
Typically, in deep POV you don’t use italics for internal dialogue or self-talk. Most readers can figure out when a character is thinking without the he/she thought tags or using italics. Where italics is used in deep pov is if there’s telepathy or mind-speak involved (looking at you paranormal and fantasy authors) to distinguish when a character is thinking from when they’re speaking to someone without words.
You can use either effectively. When writing in first person, you are not automatically writing in deep pov though, so keep that in mind. This becomes more a choice of personal preference and genre/audience. Some genres seem to trend more towards one than the other.
Same answer as above. Both can be equally effective so it’s more about personal preference and genre.
I have read most but not all of these. My students will sometimes ask me about a particular book and I’ll use the Look Inside feature on Amazon to read the first few pages. These books are or seem to be written entirely in deep POV and represent a wide variety of genres.
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Divergent – Veronica Roth
Water For Elephants – Sara Gruen
Her Galahad – Melissa James
Paladin of Souls – Lois McMaster Bujold
Dreamlander – K.M. Weiland
Cry Wolf – Patricia Briggs
ROOM – Emma Donaghue
The Last Seers – Lisa Hall-Wilson
Cross My Heart – Pamela Cook
Cursed Wishes – Marcy Kennedy
Tough Road – Elizabeth Safleur
The Ladderman – Angela Archer
Because Of Dylan – Erica Alexander
Most of the time, writing that the character is mad, happy, depressed, anxious, etc. is considered telling. With deep pov, we want to write as though we are the character experiencing this story in real time. We don’t label emotions in our own minds very often, we FEEL emotions. This creates the immersive effect readers crave. For those who are aware of this rule in deep pov, what more often happens is showing AND telling.
Steve kicked the can down the street, hands shoved so far down his pockets he might’ve pulled up his socks. Too depressed to go home, he trudged past home and headed to the park.
Steve kicked the can down the street, hands shoved so far down his pockets he might’ve pulled up his socks. He trudged past home and headed to the park.
Sometimes it’s telling, often it’s author intrusion, but making sure the reader is rooted in who, when, where, etc. at the beginning of a chapter is a challenge for those new to deep POV. When done well, you can set aside this rule in deep pov if you’re able to become the character – inhabit their skin so to speak for a bit – and let the character feel their way through a scene.
It was five days later when Jerry sat down for breakfast.
Jerry slumped onto the only uncluttered chair at the table with a bowl of granola and the week’s stack of newspapers under his arm. He opened the oldest paper and spread it across the table. He had five days of news to catch up on.
These filter words are considered telling in deep pov but are totally acceptable in other styles, and it can be hard to shift the mindset to write without them. Try to write it as though YOU are the character and the character has no audience. Don’t write as though the reader is listening in. Write so that the reader feels like they’re right there next to your character living out this story with them.
She felt herself drawn to the last door on the left. <-- Instead of telling me she feels something, just write what she feels.
She stared at the final door, the light shining out from beneath like a safety beacon on a dark night.
She heard twigs snapping behind her in the dark. <-- don’t tell me she hears things, just show me what she hears.
Twigs snapped behind her and she spun towards the noise.
In deep POV, you have to rethink your ideas on tension and conflict. In other styles of writing, keeping the reader in the dark is one way to build tension for readers, but you can’t keep secrets from the reader in deep pov. If your character knows what’s about to happen, the reader knows what’s about to happen.
Instead, think about surprise. If your character is able to create a plan and fully execute it without alteration maybe you need to be harder on them. Let the reader in on what the character expects going into a situation – and now make life harder for them. Whatever they’re expecting – what if it doesn’t happen, or happens at the wrong time? If the reader knows the stakes going in, how much of their plan depends on one element, then the reader is leaning in and cheering for the character to succeed.
These are the short answers, of course, but sometimes that’s all you need. *smile*
Do you have a deep POV question I could add to my next deep POV FAQ post? Please share it down in the comments!
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Lisa Hall-Wilson is 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.
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