by Michelle Massaro
A lot of people are talking about Deep Point Of View these days. Seems every writer wants to go deeper, but many aren't clear on what that means or how to do it. Where did this trend come from? Think about it. Our culture is immersed in experiential pastimes. We can hop a plane and visit exotic locations around the globe within hours. Surround-sound, HD, and Digital 3D bring everything to life. The Wii allows us to "experience" bowling or tennis. With increased sensory-engaging technology, it takes more to help us escape than it did in generations past. In fiction this translates to Deep POV.
The reader wants to "try on" someone else's life. To climb into a character's skin—tasting, feeling, hearing, smelling what they do. Using a great metaphor or simile won’t suffice. Deep POV isn't simply active voice or showing rather than telling either.
So how do you employ Deep POV? Let me provide some tips and examples. Snack-size morsels you can chew on and digest at your own speed.
Tip #1: Don't use labels.
Don't label the emotions of your character, describe them.
She felt sad
Her throat clamped and her chin quivered. She blinked away the tears threatening to escape.
This is also true when describing the character's thoughts.
She thought how much she hated her ex-boyfriend
She closed her eyes and saw him—felt his fist striking her jaw, smelled his cologne when he hissed in her ear. Bile rose in the back of her throat at the memory. He would pay.
Tip #2: Pretend it's you.
What would you say to yourself if you were the character? Figure it out, then replace the pronouns with "s/he" (unless you're writing in first person, of course.)
Someone very close to you died suddenly. You don't say to yourself "I feel sad" or even "I feel depressed and confused." No, more likely you think:
"How can he be dead?!" or perhaps "Matt, how can you be gone?"
There's an intruder in your house brandishing a knife. You don't say in your own head "I'm terrified!" You'd think:
"He's going to kill me!" You can turn this to third person in one of two ways: He's going to kill her! or Was he going to kill her?
Tip #3: Physiological Responses.
Once you figure out what the character would say to themselves and how to describe (show) an emotion without labels, follow up with physiological responses. Depending on the situation, these might be knees buckling, chest tightening, throat clamping, an adrenaline rush, goose bumps, stomach cramps, tears, nausea, dizziness, heart pounding in ears, sweating, etc. Describe those. This will really pull the reader deep into the story, particularly in those high-intensity moments.
All right love, off you go!
Remember, Deep POV is a skill that must be learned just like anything else. (And we're always learning.) But remembering these tips as you write is a great place to start. Next week in Part 2, I'll apply these tips to a non-pivotal scene and turn it from an invisible transition into an engaging passage. I hope you'll join me. Don't forget to stop by Clash of the Titles this week to meet our three COTT finalists!
Now let's hear from you: What do you like/dislike about Deep POV? Do you have any tips to share? Leave your questions and tips in the comments!
Michelle Massaro is a homeschooling mom and aspiring novelist. She is Assistant Editor for the literary website Clash of the Titles and writes for COTT's Blog Alliance. Michelle also serves on the worship team and teaches origins science to the youth at her church. She and her husband of 15 years live in sunny So Cal with their four children. Connect with her on twitter @MLMassaro, facebook (www.facebook.com/michelle.massaro1), and her blog Adventures in Writing (www.michellemassaro.blogspot.com)