Writers in the Storm

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February 27, 2023

10 Examples of Author Intrusion In Deep POV, How To Fix It

by Lisa Hall-Wilson

Deep POV takes the idea of ‘show don’t tell’ to what seems like new extremes for those more familiar with limited third person POV, or first person narration POV styles of writing (not to mention more distant POV styles like omniscient or objective third person). The goal of deep POV is to entirely remove the narrator/author voice and immerse the reader in the character’s lived experience of the story as it happens.

Easier said than done.

Writers see the advice that readers only get the information the main character takes in (what they see, hear, know, learn, intuit, etc), but are then frustrated by how often critiques point out where the author/narrator voice has crept in.

Now, to be clear, how deep you go with your story – how often or where you choose to go deep with your story, is entirely subjective. There are no rules. And if you take the time to browse through the bestseller categories for various genres, you’ll find deep POV techniques used a lot but you’ll also see those “rules” cheated a lot. Most people are going to use deep POV subjectively to varying degrees of depth. The best practice then, is to learn the technique, what effect the various tools create, and then use those techniques strategically to best enhance your voice and what you need each scene to accomplish story-wise.

In Deep point of view, the author’s job is to be invisible. So, where does the author/narrator voice creep in, and how do we fix it?

What is Author Intrusion?

Author intrusion in deep POV is when the author pauses the story or speaks to the reader either through description, summary, explanation, backstory, justification, etc. It’s considered author intrusion anytime you – the writer – insert yourself into the story to give the reader information – either information the POV character doesn’t/can’t know, or information the character might know but not think of. It’s narrator intrusion in first person when the POV character narrates their own feelings or thoughts.

Let’s look at some examples of common ways that author/narrator intrusion creeps into our stories when we’re aiming to write in deep POV:

Remember in deep POV, the character is alone in their own heads. We don’t remind ourselves of information we already know, we don’t explain our actions or feelings to ourselves (generally), and we don’t rehash past experiences (especially painful ones) without there being something to remind us of them.

1. With Author Intrusion:

There’s Judy with Bob, her fourth husband, next to the lemonade.

(The POV character already knows who Bob is, so they wouldn’t explain who he is to themselves if they’re not talking to the reader.)

The Fix:

“Who’s that with Judy?”

“Oh, that’s her husband, Bob.”
“Oh, why did I think her husband was blond?”

“Her third husband, Jack, was blond. That’s Bob.”

Dialogue is usually a good way to work around delivering information to the reader that the POV character wouldn’t think of or explain to themselves. Do some research into newbies or Watsons, especially if your character has specialized knowledge or lingo they wouldn’t need to explain to themselves but might cause readers to pause or become confused. The TV show Bones did this really well, having the cop explain detective procedure to the Dr, and the Dr explaining forensic procedures to the cop.

2. With Author Intrusion:

Felora slid her seax, a small multi-purpose blade, back into her belt.

(Felora would already know what a seax is, she wouldn’t need to explain it to herself.)

The Fix:

Felora slid her seax back into her belt and reached for her sword. This called for a much bigger blade.

3. With Author Intrusion:

Shannon brushed out her long blond hair. “Good enough. Let’s go.”

Every word on the page comes from within the POV character’s head. When you brush your hair, do you take note of the color, the length, how curly it is? Probably not without a reason to.

The Fix:

Use a different character to give that info to the reader: “Your hair is so long, Shannon. And I love the blond.”

Give the POV character an organic reason to think of it: Shannon’s brush caught another snag in her hair. She worked on the knot. “Stace, should I go short?”

4. With Author Intrusion:

A blush crept into her cheeks.

The POV character can’t see their own face. Instead, describe how this feels to them.

The Fix:

Heat spread across her cheeks.

5. With Author Intrusion:

When the meal ended, Kenelm clapped. The sound bounced off the walls and the table quieted. Most lords employed traveling gleemen to entertain at important feasts, but Kenelm had his own scop. She preferred gleemen because they recited well known songs and stories, whereas the scop composed original songs that could be quite coarse and lewd.

Watch for places where the POV character describes an aspect of their world they’d take for granted. Thinking and emotion words can function as red flags for author intrusion (the word “preferred” here). Where are you – the author – summarizing, explaining, giving context for things the character wouldn’t bother or need to tell themselves? Remember, the character is alone in their own head, they don’t talk to the reader through their thoughts.

The Fix:

Taryn poked Fin and nodded towards the man by the fire. “Who’s that?”

“Kenelm’s scop.” Fin tipped his cup to his lips.

“I’ve never seen a scop. Is it the same as a gleeman?”

“No. Gleemen recite songs and stories they’ve heard elsewhere. Scops compose their own.” His tone hardened, his frame stiffened.

She leaned in closer to whispered. “Is that bad?”

“Not bad.” Fin stared at his cup, turning it in his hands. “But unpredictable and often lewd. Mind your temper.”

6. With Author Intrusion:

Buzzards circled above the house in slow dizzying circles. Sarah reached for the alarm and yawned. Time to get up.

If the POV character can’t see or hear something, if they don’t know something is happening outside of what they can directly observe – they can’t tell the reader about it.

The Fix:

Sarah pulled back the curtains. Buzzards circled over the yard in dizzying circles.

The Fix:

She opened her eyes, frowning at the open window. Raucous bird chatter from the yard filled the room. She got up and looked out. Buzzards bounced around and chased one another off a fresh roadkill.

7. With (possible) Author Intrusion:

Shawn climbed the pine tree, his palm landing in a great gob of sap.

This is fine, as long as being able to distinguish a pine tree from a spruce tree is something this character would know -- not something YOU know. Every description needs to be how the character would describe it. Every detail described needs to what the character would notice or prioritize.

If Shawn is a city boy who doesn’t know one tree from another, he shouldn’t label it in his internal dialogue. If he spends a lot of time in the country and knows one tree from another, he’ll be able to label the tree.

The Fix:

Shawn crawled up the trees, weaving through the maze of clustered branches. His hand stuck to the bark and he swiped it against his pants, but the gobs of sap wouldn’t come off.

Instead, focus on details that would stand out to him instead of taking the short cut of labelling a specific tree. This goes for car parts, clothing designers, plants, etc.

8. With Narrator-Voice Intrusion:

I’d just been fired from a job I’d had for five years to an obnoxious kid with no experience.

This is very subjective – what does this character consider obnoxious? Readers have to take it for granted that the “kid” has no experience – can we trust this character’s perception? Further, how does this FEEL? Emotions are the glue of deep POV, they’re what makes dee POV so powerful.

The Fix:

I forced a smile and leaned in for the group selfie to mark the start of the ‘new’ marketing initiative. A lump the size of Montana filled my throat, blocking my air, stealing the moisture from my mouth. I returned to my chair, my back pressed against the wall. Being an Instagram influencer was not the equivalent of a four year marketing degree. I opened my phone and tapped in the password to my cloud storage and pulled up my resume. Heat filled my face and I stared at the screen just to have something else to focus on. Just let me crawl beneath the carpet and hide under the floor boards. Why wouldn’t this meeting just end?

9. With Author Intrusion:

She chewed on her bottom lip as she scanned the document. She satisfied herself that the corrections had been made.

This is author summary. The author is telling the reader the conclusion the character’s made and skipped over the details of how the character made that decision, or WHY they made that decision.

The Fix (going deeper):

She chewed on her bottom lip, her gaze skipping to each section she’d flagged on the previous version. The extra spaces had been removed. The client’s name was now spelled correctly. The timeline adjusted. Steve’s name and tainted reputation was no longer on the solicitor’s team list. She handed it back to Cindy. “Looks good. Go ahead and send that version. CC me.”

10. With Author Intrusion:

She chewed on her bottom lip as she scanned the document. She satisfied herself that the corrections had been made.

The Fix (going shallower):

She chewed on her bottom lip as she scanned the document. Steve’s name and tainted reputation was no longer on the solicitor’s team list. “Looks good.”

The decision of where to go deeper or shallower has to be made strategically depending on how important this is to the goals you have for this scene. Are the details in this contract important to the story? Is her missing a detail important? Are you trying to show that this character is distracted, meticulous, hard to work with, dedicated – whatever? If not, going deep without reason can slow the pace of the story. Going deeper causes the reader to lean in and assume this detail is important and causes frustration if these details are extraneous to the story. You can still avoid the author intrusion without going deep.

If you choose to go deeper in these situations, an editor unfamiliar with deep pov might flag this as ‘writing on the nose’ so it’s important to know WHY you’re including these details here – now.

Final Thoughts

Goodness, I could keep going but this is a good summary list of the common ways author/narrator intrusion creeps into deep POV. Make use of beta readers and critique partners because this can be very difficult to spot in your own work.

Do you feel confident enough in your knowledge of deep POV to know where you can cheat ‘the rules’ and what effects the techniques aim to create?

About Lisa

Lisa Hall-Wilson is a writing teacher and award-winning writer and author. She’s the author of Method Acting For Writers: Learn Deep Point Of View Using Emotional Layers. Her blog, Beyond Basics For Writers, explores all facets of the popular writing style deep point of view and offers practical tips for writers. 

She runs the free Facebook group Going Deeper With Emotions where she shares tips and videos on writing in deep point of view. 

12 comments on “10 Examples of Author Intrusion In Deep POV, How To Fix It”

  1. You've hit the high points with clear examples and explanations. It gets tricky if the character is alone, but you still have to stay in his head.
    I've been writing in Deep POV for about 30 novels now, so yes, I think I have a handle on it. Nothing pulls me out of a story faster than "Susie ran her hair through her long, auburn curls." (Unless she just came from the salon and changed her color and got a perm).
    Another peeve is when a character "notices" something they'd probably be unaware of, like the man approaching down the block wearing (insert fabric, style, name brand). I ask myself, "How do they know?" and again, I'm out of the story. There was a point where I was ready to throw a book against the wall every time someone recognized Jimmy Choos (and why did ALL the female characters wear them, anyway?)

    1. Author intrusion in deep pov is insidious. It sneaks in no matter how disciplined you are about eradicating it lol At least, I find it to be. Dialogue is my preferred workaround. It's always more interesting for readers to discover information that way than by having the character tell the reader info through internal thoughts. IMHO.

  2. These are awesome fixes, thanks Lisa!
    I tend to use dialogue to remedy intrusion issues.
    Critique partners and beta readers are invaluable. More eyes-on truly makes a difference.

    1. Yes! I am in a crit group that focuses specifically on deep pov because it can be so hard to see it in your own work. It's also super helpful to have another pair or eyes to say -- I want you to go deeper here - I want to know why they're doing this now, etc.

  3. Love this, Lisa! Deep POV is tricky! I love that sometimes the solution is to go shallower!!!

  4. Deep POV is especially challenging when the setting is a different country and culture. What the protagonist is very familiar with has to be explained and described to the reader without it seeming like the POV character is giving a tour in a foreign country! Your example of how more mundane information can be communicated by going shallower is so very useful. Thank you.

  5. This is so very helpful. Deep POV always feels like I'm over or under-doing it...or intruding. So, I absolutely love all the help I can get!

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