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Why First Person POV Is NOT Deep POV

by Lisa Hall-Wilson

colorful silouette of head representing muddled point of view

First Person POV is not automatically deep POV. First person leans heavily on a narrator construct. Once you understand what the narrator voice is, how it’s used, and how to recognize it, you’ll see where first person POV differs from Deep POV.

Learn the rules and then break. Deep POV is not a template or box you need to fit inside, it’s a set of tools for you to use strategically to create effects for the reader.

For many first person POV stories, a few deep POV tools are used to create intimacy and pull readers into the story (remove filter words, remove dialogue tags). But the use of the narrator voice, this assumption of a reader leaning in to listen and watch, adds narrative distance that deep POV aims to remove. Neither is more right or wrong, it’s a stylistic choice.

Let’s look deeper at the main first person POV styles.

First Person Central (Narration)

This is where the I, me, we, or us of the story is both the POV character and the protagonist. The character tells a story as they experience or remember things that happen to them. They “narrate” the story for the reader.

Examples would be: Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood; Moby Dick, Herman Melville; Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte; Water For Elephants, Sara Gruen; The Help, Kathryn Stockett; The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins; Dresden Files, Jim Butcher

First Person Peripheral

This is where the I, me, we, or us of the story (the POV character) is not the protagonist. This POV character is IN the story observing, interacting, etc—but the story is really about the protagonist and the choices, goals, and decisions they make. This construct allows the writer to keep information about the protagonist hidden from the reader, and can also add a built-in voice to summarize, explain, ask questions, etc.

Authors may use a close or limited style with their POV character, but there are examples of omniscient first person peripheral where the POV character is all-knowing.

Close First Person Peripheral examples would be: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald; To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee; The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle; Room, Emma Donoghue

Omniscient First Person Peripheral examples would be: The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak; Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold; A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snickets (this also uses third person omniscient)

What Is Deep POV?

Deep POV is where the author/narrator voice is completely missing. Every word on the page (and I mean, every word), comes from or from within the POV character. There’s no external voice to fill in gaps in time, summarize, explain, theorize, look ahead or back. Zip.

The goal is to immerse the reader completely in the POV’s experience of the story, as they live out the story in real time. It’s about how things FEEL, rather than narrating movement, what is seen or heard or wanted.

What Is The Role Of The Narrator Voice?

First Person POV is about who is telling the story, deep POV is about how you tell the story.

Where I want to start telling is the day I left Pencey Prep. Pencey Prep is this school that’s in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. You probably heard of it. You’ve probably seen the ads, anyway. They advertise in about a thousand magazines, always showing some hotshot guy on a horse jumping over a fence.

JD Salinger, The Catcher In The Rye

Do you see how the POV character here, teenager Holden Caulfield, is narrating his own story for readers? This is additionally breaking the fourth wall, but this type of narrator voice is allowed in first person POV, it’s a feature.

How This Works in Deep POV

In deep POV, thoughts are written as though the character is alone inside their own head. To deliver this info to the reader, in deep POV, either the character needs a reason to think of it or another character can say it. Maybe the character is in the front passenger seat of a car and they drive past a billboard for Pency Prep. The character thinks about how there’s no escaping this school. Their ads are everywhere. That’s one way deep POV would deliver this information to readers.

We're standing on the deck that's all wooden like the deck of a ship. There's fuzz on it, little bundles. Grandma says it's some kind of pollen from a tree.

"Which one?" I'm staring up at all the differents.

"Can't help you there, I'm afraid."

In Room we knowed what everything was called but in the world there's so much, persons don't even know the names.

― Emma Donoghue, Room

Here, the character is a boy of five years old, narrating his own life. He experiences much of the world for the first time in the novel. There are few filter words, no dialogue tags, which are tools shared with deep POV. But, the character is narrating his life, he assumes a reader is leaning in to listen. Words like ‘knowed’ would tip us off to the narrator voice. Also, the character is telling the reader, summarizing, a conversation he had with another character the reader wasn’t privy to—this is the narrator voice.

In deep POV, time and place setting details, the history/backstory, would need to be delivered without that author voice, and instead through context, subtext, dialogue, etc. This book uses a lot of deep POV techniques really effectively, but there’s also heavy use of this first person narrator construct.

Deep POV Goes Deeper Than You Think It Does

Many will advocate to leave out filter words and dialogue tags (he said/she said) from first person POV to remove narrative distance. Room, Hunger Games, The Help—these all do that really effectively and create an intimate experience for readers. Deep POV aims for the reader to be immersed in the POV character’s experience. It’s a subtle difference, but once you learn to see the differences, deep POV offers a different level of intensity and intimacy.

An Example

Sitting at Prim’s knees, guarding her, is the world’s ugliest cat. Mashed-in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the color of rotting squash. Prim named him Buttercup, insisting that his muddy yellow coat matched the bright flower. He hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home. Scrawny kitten, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed. But Prim begged so hard, cried even, I had to let him stay. It turned out okay. My mother got rid of the vermin and he's a born mouser. Even catches the occasional rat. Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me.

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

This novel is really good at using context and subtext to create setting, tone, backstory—all the things. It’s very economical writing, in that many of these phrases and sentences do more than one job—they convey information, but also emotions, motivation, backstory, etc. But do you see where the narrator voice creeps in?

Katniss here is narrating her backstory with this cat. She assumes someone is leaning in to listen. If this was in deep POV, this would be written as though she was alone in her own head. When alone with our thoughts, we don’t remind ourselves of things we know, we don’t label things, we don’t explain or summarize, or catalogue details.

How This Works in Deep POV

One way someone might use deep POV here is to have Katniss interact with the cat to bring these features to mind instead of cataloguing the details about Buttercup. Maybe she would set the bucket of offal on the floor for the cat, reaching down to touch its one ear and the cat hisses. Maybe she leans down and whispers a promise that she’ll never try to drown it again, and the cat just flicks its tail and glares at her. Then, maybe it walks away from the bucket to guard Prim. Whatever.

Deep POV is a shift in how you tell a story.

Choose the style that will work best for the story you’re telling, the genre conventions you have to work within, and your author voice.

Do you struggle to identify the author/narrator voice in your work?

About Lisa

Lisa Hall Wilson

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. 

Top Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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Research Your Novel on a Rambling Road Trip

By Kris Maze

Summertime is fun time, but it can also provide useful insights to your writing. I’m planning my next minor road trip close to home (*ahem, looking at you, gas pump) and making the most of these opportunities away from my writing desk. In past posts I’ve included tips about making your writing fresh by taking a writing vacation. In today’s post we will list ways you can take your writing on the road.

Make the most of your time and have fun researching your next novel with these tips.

Organize Your Tools

Old school notebook

One may not have access to all the digital tools you are used to inside a vehicle. Try using good ol' fashioned paper and consider keeping a few of these items near as you travel.

Keep a field notes book or notebook on your person. Have your favorite pencils or pens to capture the ideas as they come. I am a fan of Moleskine notebooks and carry one in my purse. Prepare for many as you experience new sights and scenes from each step of your road trip.

Sticky Notes

I love my sticky notes. Take down mini ideas and keep them in a notebook. Later, when you get back home, organize them and incorporate them into your working novel. What are tiny sized ideas for sticky notes? Here are some I frequently use:

  • Working titles
  • Poetic devices
  • Rhetorical device sentences
  • Descriptions of a scene, person, setting on the road
  • Quotes from readings
  • Dialogue or sayings unique to an area
  • Any idea you don’t want to forget!

Digital Tools

Most digital tools can be accessed during your road trip with a little preparation. If you are a fan of OneNote or Evernote, or prefer to type in Word or Google Docs, you can from inside your car. Try the following ideas and dig around your current tools for some of these. You may have them at your fingertips already.

12 volt chargers

Many vehicles have regular plugs for using a standard wall plug for a laptop or other device. Try plugging in your device while the car is running and see if it keeps your battery charged and ready to write.

If your car doesn't have a regular sized outlet you can use, try getting an adaptor. I purchased one that came with a tiny blue case. And now I can pull the laptop in while working on the road in almost any car.

Wi-Fi hotspots

Consider having a hotspot on your phone to connect your laptop or iPad to the internet while on the road. Most phones offer a hotspot option. This could be an add on for as little as $10 per month. Many plans already include it and allow you to remove the service after a month or two. It may work well for you and could be something you use to write anywhere. I now use mine instead of connecting to public Wi-Fi as added security.

Social Media tools

You never know who you may get for an interview, and it is good to be prepared as the old Scouts mantra states. Read through Eldred Bird’s recent Writer’s in the Storm post about how to create your own Mobile Media Kit here, and always capture the moments that will inspire and inform your writing.

Map it

What is a road trip without a map? We may like to wander, but keeping track of the trip will help our writing succeed. Some writers may want the adventure of the open road, not planning the stops in advance. Others want to have the stops as carefully scheduled as they can to avoid stress and to optimize their experience.

Neither are incorrect approaches and both have benefits to your overall enjoyment of the road trip research. Whether you are a road trip pantser or planner, I recommend you keep track of your adventure so you can look back on your research and use it after summer has long passed us into fall.

Pinbox

One product I am trying this summer is Pinbox. This app works with an iPhone but can be shared with Android users. This versatile mapping tool can plan many things from errand trips to locations you have spent with family or friends.

Pinbox allows you to take pictures and notes as you visit to reference later. Another nice feature is to see the distance between each location which could be used for planning the trip. After the trip is over, it could help you write more authentic adventures as you see the trip as it unfolded.

Map Ideas to Enhance Your Writing

Many ways a map can add to your writing include:

Note the distance, time, and topography of the road between locales on your trip. Match them up to your novel.

Topography and Special Features

What special land features are common stopping grounds? What unique aspects of driving through an area stood out to you? What smells, sounds, and general vibe does an area give you?

If you are lucky enough to have someone else driving while you take notes, add these to your writing log between stops. If you are the driver (or like people in my family—are prone to carsickness if you write or read) then make stops and write in between.

Taking time to process each stop can make the setting and special parts of these stops sink in. Allow yourself time and space to absorb the details and get them down on paper. You won’t regret it later when you add them to your work in progress.

Read Other Books on Your Topic

Are there popular books about the area you are visiting? Is where you are going a known part of a novel in your genre? Read these in advance or bring the book along to absorb while taking your road trip.

How is your book like these novels? How will yours be different? What types of information are expected to make your book more interesting? What else could you find out while on the road to add unusual and new ideas to your writing?

In person Research

Find museums

There are many museums across the United States and here is a handy website to help you find the perfect one for your research. Type in a keyword or browse by state or category. The results may be road trip worthy in themselves. There are dedicated museums to ships or banjos or the Underground Railroad to name only a few. So if you want inspiration to pack up - there are interesting places to dive deep into your book research.

Find historical societies

Historical societies are prevalent throughout the world. If you are visiting outside your native country try looking up a local society in the place you are writing about. Many small towns in the United States have historical groups that are run by volunteers. You can find these with a simple search online. Try calling ahead and let them know what you are researching. This could the insights to elevate your novel.

Strike up a conversation at a local diner or shop

Visit parks and talk to the rangers or caretakers for story ideas and background information. Many shop owners are used to tourist traveling through during road trip seasons, They often know the best places to get the real local scoop.

Keep Receipts

Writers are able to deduct a certain amount of costs associated with the business of being a writer. Check with your accountant or tax specialist and see which items could benefit you the most. Potential items could include mileages, overnight stays, entrance fees, materials used to research like books purchased on your topic.

Photography

Take pictures of everything along the way. It records your adventure for future reflection and could save you money on your writing projects. Here are some uses of snapshots or profession level work (if you are lucky enough to have these talents along with writing!)

  • Use them in social media. Create posts, tweets, and short videos of where you have been.
  • Use them for cover art. Find the perfect backdrop for a novel? An aesthetic that conveys your book's feeling? Use your own photography.
  • Use them for websites and personalized backgrounds. Even if you are used to creating with digital sources like Canva.com, using your own pictures adds your own style to your projects.

Be Flexible

Enjoy the trip. The best stories include conflict and problem solving. Most fun road trips include several stories about what doesn’t go well. Keep the messy process of a traveling in mind as fodder for good story telling. As the wheels roll down the road, may your mind be rolling into a fantastic flow of novel writing!

Are you planning a trip? Local or off to fulfil a trip you intended to take but couldn't over the last two years? Let us know your fun plans and tell us whether you plan to simply recharge during this trip or to research for a writing project.

About Kris

Kris Maze is an author, writing coach, and teacher. She has worked in education for many years and writes for various publications including Practical Advice for Teachers of Heritage Learners of Spanish and the award-winning blog Writers in the Storm where she is also a host. You can find her horror stories and keep up with her author events at her website.

See her new website under the penname Krissy Knoxx here.

A recovering grammarian and hopeless wanderer, Kris enjoys reading, playing violin and piano, and spending time outdoors.

And occasionally, she knits.

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Satisfying Ways to End a Story

by Ellen Buikema

You’re reading a whirlwind story full of great story arcs and intriguing characters. The plot is speeding towards its climax, and you’re consuming the pages into the wee hours of the morning. Then bam! The book comes to a halt due to a natural disaster, last minute marriage to the wrong character, discover that it was all a dream, or another disappointing end.

There are better ways.

6 Different ways to end a story

1. A Resolved Ending

A resolved ending leaves the reader with no loose ends.

Consider Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. At the end of the story Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy marry. It appears as though their marriage will be a good one, and that the rest of Mr. Bennet’s daughters have settled down. There are no unanswered questions.

A resolved ending isn’t always a happy ending. In Shakespeare’s tragedies major characters often end up dead by one means or another. What matters most for a resolved ending is that all issues have been clearly resolved.

2. Unresolved Ending

Sometimes, the end is not truly the end. The unresolved ending leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Cliffhangers can be frustrating, but can also be satisfying if the story promises more.

Unresolved endings are good choices for a series, because it leads the reader to the next book. For example, Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. Some books in this series were published many years apart.

3. Expanded Ending

The Epilogue

This ending expands the story beyond the events of the tale, jumps forward in time, and sometimes changes perspective. Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale is an example.

Like an unexpected ending, expanded endings can change the readers paradigm.

The epilogue allows the writer to answer questions that might not be possible to answer in the space of the story, like how things turned out years after the main events of the story.

4. Unexpected Ending

The unexpected twist can be earth-shattering, or subtle. The trick to pulling off the big surprise is that in hindsight you knew it would have to happen. This should not come out of this air.

A good ending avoids the heavy-handedness that abruptly resolves all the story’s problems in an unnatural way. So, no previously unknown rich relative appearing from nowhere to give the poor hardworking main character a vast fortune. Good plot twists require clues left along the way. Have a look at The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney.

5. Ambiguous Ending

An ambiguous ending allows readers to come to different conclusions. Of all the endings, the ambiguous one requires the most involvement from the reader.

Take a look at the ending to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. In the last lines, main character Pip takes the hand of the widow Estrella and says he sees “no shadow of another parting from her.” Is his prediction correct? The ending leaves the reader with more than one possibility.

6. Tied Ending

Sometimes referred to as a tied ending or a full circle ending, a circular ending brings the story “full circle” back around to where it began, with subtle differences showing how your characters have grown. The Hero’s Journey has this type of plot structure.

There are many options to repeat your main theme in the story’s end, people, actions, details.

James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake ends on a sentence fragment that finishes the first sentence of his novel.

4 Story Endings Examples

1. Take Them by Surprise

People are curious beings. Readers appreciate being surprised. Then give them something they don’t expect, but still makes sense for your story.

Maybe the thief turns out to be the narrator’s own husband or even the narrator herself. Maybe the girl doesn’t pick between her two suitors, but instead marries their uncle. Or their plumber.

Agatha Christie, a master of surprise, shows us how it’s done in And Then There Were None. Ten visitors are trapped on a small island and murdered one by one. With no one else on the island, which of them is the murderer?

2. Repeat the Theme of the Opening Scene

Bret Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho begins with describing a graffiti using the text “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”

The novel’s ending is perfectly circular.

“this is, uh, how life presents itself in a bar or in a club in New York, maybe anywhere, at the end of the century and how people, you know, me, behave, and this is what being Patrick means to me, I guess, so, well, yup, uh…” Above one of the doors covered by red velvet drapes in Harry’s is a sign with letters that match the drapes’ color that read “THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.”

3. Play on Their Feelings

Milan Kundera uses mood in his The Unbearable Lightness of Being:

Kundera’s story fades like a piece of music, diminuendo. The ending’s all about mood.

“Up out of the lampshade, startled by the overhead light, flew a large nocturnal butterfly that began circling the room. The strains of the piano and violin rose up weakly from below.”

Try to make your reader feel the moment, something ordinary but significant for the tale. Falling rain at the end of a long drought.

4. Leave Open Questions and Create Suspense

This kind of ending can be tricky and sometimes unsatisfying because the reader bought your book so you can show what happened. But if you’ve delivered an action-packed story and if the question is rather vague, it could work.

Consider Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. It ends with Scarlett O’Hara’s desire to be with Rhett Butler again.

“I’ll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.”

For your reading pleasure, here’s a post on 100 Ways to End a Story.

How do you prefer to end your stories? What is your favorite book ending?

* * * * * *

About Ellen

Author, speaker, and former teacher, Ellen L. Buikema has written non-fiction for parents and a series of chapter books for children with stories encouraging the development of empathy—sprinkling humor wherever possible. Her Works In Progress are The Hobo Code, YA historical fiction and Crystal Memories, YA paranormal fantasy.

Find her at https://ellenbuikema.com or on Amazon.

Top Image by Angeline 1 from Pixabay

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