Conquering Six Enemies of Deep Point of View
So you know the rules of point of view (POV), the difference between first and third person. You understand what writers refer to as “deep POV.” You’ve decided you want to write that way, offering your reader an immersive experience in the thoughts and senses of your character. But when looking at your scenes, how do you know you’re writing deep? And if you’re not, how do you start?
This post will compare examples to show how to conquer some “enemies” of deep POV. Please note that, like every writing principle, there are exceptions to each of these. Also note these enemies can infiltrate both first and third person. Switching your POV to first is not going to fix a thing if you let the enemies lie. (It is, in fact, even more jarring to the reader. It’s acceptable to write third person from a removed POV; not so with first.)
All right, so how to conquer them?
1) Eliminate sense verbs; instead, describe the sense itself. This is the difference between He saw a flower growing through the gaps in the fence and A flower grew through the gaps in the fence. In the first, the reader is seeing the character see something. In the second, the reader is seeing what the character sees. For the same reason, deep POV characters should never remark on their own blushing cheeks or white smile (unless they’re standing in front of a mirror). This principle can be applied to all of the senses, almost all the time. He heard an alarm blaring from the hallway vs. An alarm blared from the hallway. Tell us the coffee tasted too sweet, not that she tasted the coffee.
2) Eliminate “thinking” verbs; instead, put us in the thought. This pitfall is most common with memories, e.g. She thought about the times they used to ride the carousel vs. They used to ride the carousel, or She remembered the old red van they drove vs. They drove an old red van. A more subtle version of this is the use of sure when it isn’t needed. He was sure she could handle herself vs. She could handle herself. (Note: for this last one, “he” is the POV, not “she.”) You don’t need to tack she thought onto the end of a deep POV sentence. Just make the statement from inside the character’s head. The reader knows who’s thinking.
3) Rewrite any scenes in which there are no character thoughts at all. This is not deep POV: She gasped and ran. She looked over her shoulder, nearly tripped, but kept running. When she stopped to catch her breath and look around, she couldn’t see any pursuers. In these sentences, the reader is merely a camera. How much character thought/reaction is needed in a scene? That varies a lot (could probably be its own post!), and of course, it can be overdone. Just make sure the reader is experiencing things from inside your character, not outside.
4) Eliminate emotion naming; instead, make the reader feel the emotion. This can usually be achieved by asking why. A few examples: The man terrified her vs. If she crossed him, he would hunt down everyone she loved. She worried often about her father vs. Her father might turn on the stove and forget about it thirty seconds later. She was determined not to cry vs. If she cried, he would mock her for a year. In the rewrites, terror, worry, and determination are shown not told, but the reader understands and has more to feel.
5) Rewrite any perceptions that are yours, not the character’s. We’ve all watched TV shows in which the characters say things they never would, in order to inform the audience. In deep POV, watch for this in the character’s thoughts, too, not just the dialogue. This is especially true of backstory. If backstory is going to come out through introspection (rather than action or dialogue, which by the way are almost always better), it should only be revealed when the character would naturally be thinking about it. Also in deep POV, your character naming must be consistent. The character shouldn’t think about Jack in one scene, Bauer in another scene, and CTU Agent Jack Bauer in a third scene. If she thinks of him as Jack, then she always thinks of him as Jack.
Another example for this principle is a recent experience of my own. The main character of my book Seek and Hide does not appreciate music, and I made this clear to the reader. At one point, he attends a piano concert. My editor pointed out a (lovely, I thought) paragraph in which the emotional effect of music is described in appreciating terms, and asked why Marcus was suddenly affected by music this way. The answer is simple, of course: Marcus’s author is affected by music. That paragraph had to be rewritten to reflect Marcus’s perspective, not mine.
6) Eliminate head hopping. All of it. All the time.
I hope these tips are helpful to you all. The best way to edit for deep POV, I have found, is to imagine your scenes through the eyes and body of your character. Don’t watch him; be him. Sooner or later, the POV enemies will become more obvious, and then you’ll find you can’t help seeing (and fixing!) them.
Jess here: Need help writing in Deep POV? Have questions?—Amanda’s here to offer advice (and let me tell you, she’s amazing at this). What are some tricks you use to keep your writing POV deep?
Conquering Six Enemies of Deep Point of View with @AmandaGStevens #publishing #amwriting #writertip (Click to Tweet)
Debut author @AmandaGStevens shares easy tricks to writing in Deep POV #amwriting #publishing #writertip (Click to Tweet)
Six years ago, the government took control of the church. Only re-translated Bibles are legal, and a specialized agency called the Constabulary enforces this and other regulations. Marcus Brenner, a new Christian, will do anything to protect his church family from imprisonment--including risk his own freedom to gain the trust of a government agent.
Aubrey Weston recanted her faith when the Constabulary threatened her baby. Now released, she just wants to provide for her son and avoid government notice. But she's targeted again, and this time, her baby is taken into custody. If only she'd never denied Him, maybe God would hear her pleas for help.
When Aubrey and Marcus's lives collide, they are forced to confront the lies they believe about themselves. And God is about to grab hold of Marcus's life in a way he'd never expect, turning a loner into a leader.
As a child, Amanda G. Stevens disparaged Mary Poppins and Stuart Little because they could never happen. Now, she writes speculative fiction. Holding a Bachelor of Science degree in English, she has taught literature and composition to home-school students. She lives in Michigan and loves books, film, music, and white cheddar popcorn. Connect with Amanda by signing up for the newsletter located on her website, follow her on Twitter, or like her Facebook author page.