by Lisa Hall-Wilson
This was a question that came up in my free Facebook group. What if you find deep POV too restrictive? What if deep POV doesn’t fit your storytelling style or the genre you’re writing?
That’s OK. Deep POV is a stylistic tool, you use the tool at your discretion. I like to say I can use a wrench to pound in a nail, it’ll be awkward and take longer but it works. But why use a wrench when a hammer is made for that job – unless you’re making a point by using a wrench!
What Do You Want To Achieve In A Given Scene?
This must be the first question to ask yourself. What effect are you looking to create for readers? Because you’re the director, the main architect. You decide if you use deep POV for a paragraph or a whole scene within limited third person.
Pinpoint where you want the high emotion moment(s) to be in the scene or in the broader story. Where do you want the reader to really lean into the story emotionally or feel the increase in tension? Where do you want to slow the pace of the story because this will increase tension and have the reader leaning in and paying closer attention.
Deep POV is a tool, so use it where it will have the greatest effect. Deep POV can ratchet up the emotional tension, slow the pace, and pull the reader in close to experience the character’s inner conflict.
The Zoom Lens
Sally hurries toward the bus stop at the corner. The buildings loom high on each side of the alley, the darkness trying to swallow the meager light from a single swinging bulb. A loud crash fills the alley, a trashcan knocked over. Maybe. She glances towards the sound and pauses. She’s just being paranoid, she thinks. But she takes off at a jog for the bus stop.
Each of us writers are like movie directors and get to choose the angle we want to capture a scene with. Omniscient POV would capture the wide vistas and panorama shots of everything. The diner where she works, the kids at home with the sitter, the bus chugging towards the bus stop and her checking her watch, AND the man lurking near the trashcan in the alley.
Limited Third person captures the scene above – a woman alone in a dark alley hurrying to catch a bus.
Deep POV zooms in very close so the reader only knows, feels, sees, learns – what the POV character knows, feels, sees, learns, etc. The reader gets an unfiltered look into the character’s head and what they’re feeling.
There isn’t a right or wrong angle. What story do you want to tell?
Let’s Go Deep
So, to insert Deep POV into a close third person story, know the basics of deep POV.
- Remove emotion words.
- Remove narrative distance.
- Remove narration.
- Keep it immediate.
- SHOW don’t tell.
- Write internal dialogue as though the character is alone in their own heads.
You really don’t need a LOT of space to do that. You can do this with a single sentence, a paragraph, several paragraphs, a whole chapter.
Let’s look a couple of ways we could insert deep POV into this example paragraph.
Sally hurries toward the bus stop at the corner. The buildings loom high on each side of the alley, the darkness trying to swallow the meager light from a single swinging bulb. A loud crash fills the alley, a trashcan knocked over. Her heart hammers against her rib cage and her fingers tremble. A dark giant-man sized shape comes towards her. She turns toward the diner’s back door. Locked shut. Run! Sally waves her arms and yells at those waiting to hold the bus for her.
I put the deep POV in bold. Do you see the shift in POVs? It can be super subtle. It’s not important that readers SEE it, but moreso that they FEEL it. The emphasis then becomes on her reaction to the man in the shadows.
Sally hurries toward the bus stop at the corner. The buildings loom high on each side of the alley, the darkness trying to swallow the meager light from a single swinging bulb. Every hot breath sears her throat and her ankles are on fire. Frank would pay for that second eight-hour shift. He’d pay for every lousy thing her kids missed out on. Tears filled her eyes. If she ever sees him again.
A loud crash fills the alley, a trashcan knocked over. She turns toward the sound and pauses. Sally takes off at a jog for the bus stop, waving her arms and yelling at those waiting to hold the bus for her.
The emphasis here is on her internal conflict. Let’s try one more.
Sally leans into the heavy metal door and squeezes out through the small opening out into the alley. The door slams shut her last chance of escape with cold finality. The buildings loomed over her, crowding the alley and shutting out the light. A place for evil to find shelter and thrive, that’s what it was. A shiver rattles her spine and leaves goosebumps down her arms.
She focuses on the bust stop at the corner and walks at a clipped pace. Not because she’s scared, she’s not scared. Not a bit. A loud crash fills the alley, a trashcan knocked over. She glances back towards the sound and pauses. She’s just being paranoid, she thinks, but she takes off at a jog for the bus stop.
This last example put the emphasis on the environment and using her perception of the alley to show the reader how she feels and then that truth is juxtaposed against her actions which are easily shown in limited third person.
The Switch Should Be Seamless For Readers
The shift in camera angles should go unnoticed by readers. We’re used to seeing camera angles shift and change on the movie screen all the time. We focus on the story, not the storytelling techniques. That’s the goal here. The reader doesn’t need to be able to articulate what you did or how you did it, just how it made them feel.
What questions do you have about using deep POV in a close third person (or limited third person) story? Lisa is answering POV questions 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.