Let’s Go Deep... POV, that is!
This is a post I wrote for a guest blog visit last year. I think it might be helpful to me readers, so I'm re-posting it here this month. Hope you find it helpful.
I remember many years ago—when I was a novice writer—a CP from my first online crit group suggested I go Deep Point Of View (POV).
I had no idea what she could possibly have meant and, since she didn’t offer any suggestions, I was at a total lost. It took a while for me to figure out what deep point of view was, but once I discovered this deeper way of writing, I haven’t looked back.
So, what exactly is Deep POV?
It’s a technique authors use to get into their characters minds so that the invisible narrator completely disappears. Your stories become more like watching movies than reading novels. The reader forgets she’s reading a book! Without deep pov the reader always has a vague awareness of the narrator, even if the author tries hard to make her/himself invisible. The only way to eliminate this unseen narrator is to go deep pov.
How do you get into Deep pov?
You need to burrow your way into the depths of your character’s mind, and live through them. You need to hear their thoughts, feel their emotions, experience their dreams, and then illustrate this to your reader. When you do that, your reader merges into your story and experiences your character’s life as if it’s hers, which increases her reading pleasure immensely.
If you think of writing in first person, you’ll instantly write differently because you’ll narrow your focus to a single, specific point. What I mean is, once we think in first person we automatically become the character. When we think in the third person, we retell someone else’s tale. I’m not suggesting you write in first person in order to achieve deep pov, I’m simply encouraging you to think that way because it makes a difference to the way you write.
I’ll tell you why! When you make the effort to write in deep POV, you tighten your story and draw the reader right into the book. You make her live your story. You will also rid yourself of the “show, don’t tell” problem many writers encounter. You know the sort of things I’m referring to—he/she saw, felt, heard, smelled, thought, decided...and the list goes on.
Stick to deep, active POV, and your character will never say things like, she heard the door slam—but rather, somewhere upstairs in the dark, musty house, a door slammed shut.
Here are some quick rules to ensure you are writing in Deep POV.
Your character can’t know anything s/he doesn’t feel, touch, experience, see, taste, smell, hear, sense, and think. She can’t know that her eyes sparked with temper. She can, however, know that the hero makes her want to throw something at him. She can even grab the cool, glass vase from the table next to her and debate whether she could live without the solid family heirloom.
Another example is something like: Jessica fumbled with her keys; she thought she heard footsteps behind her. The keys fell from her nervous fingers. She bent to pick them up, and someone grabbed her from behind.
How about we go deep with something like: Jessica wrapped her coat tighter around her as she strode across the almost deserted car park at the back of her office building. Cold fog had drifted in late afternoon, dragging down the already dank weather and giving the car park an eerie atmosphere that brought out all sorts of creepy sounds and shadows. A sense of unease crept over her, encouraging Jess to up her pace. Each breath she exhaled frosted in front of her as she dug her hands in her jacket pocket and drew out her car keys.
Why hadn’t she parked closer?
Tomorrow, sound diet advice or not, she was parking right next to the building’s front entrance. So what if she didn’t add those extra steps the diet mag promised would help her to shift the five pounds she put on over Christmas? She’d rather be safe that trek across this car park in the dark again.
An empty bottle clattered on the asphalt somewhere to her left, snapping her out of her thoughts and she glanced toward the sound.
Not that she could see beyond the sparse circles of dim light floating down from the few lamp poles in the car park. When did it get so dark? Jess glanced around again. A few cars remained in the lot, scattered here and there, but hers was right at the very end where she’d parked in her effort to give herself the greatest calorie-burning walking distance.
Damn, she hated how easily she spooked. Quickening her steps, she huddled further inside her coat. Great, she’d managed to scare herself. She wanted to run, but forced her feet to keep an even pace. Then an empty can bounced on the ground behind her as if someone had kicked it. Her heart leaped and, without a backward glance, she took off. Jess was not a brave woman, and she saw no reason to change that character trait this instant, because there was no way in hell she imagined someone kicking that can!
Her car seemed twice as far as it had been only seconds ago.
Heavy footfalls hammered behind her and she didn’t dare look back.
Heart pounding so hard she could barely breathe, she fumbled with her keys, trying to find the fob. It had a personal alarm button that would set off her car alarm if she could only find it. In her frantic key search and mad dash to the safety of her car, her bag slipped off her shoulder, almost tripping her. She paused, reached for it, wasting crucial seconds, but she needed it. The thing was heavy enough to cause some damage if she used it as a weapon. The footfall closed in and, in a split-second decision, she left the bag and tore across the car park toward her car.
The person behind her must have picked up speed because a large man-shaped shadow overtook her, someone else’s breath besides hers frosted the air, and a blast of stale sweat stench shot up her frozen nostrils. Lungs screaming for mercy, Jess pumped her arms faster. Wasn’t that what you were supposed to do if you wanted to run faster? Or was that pump your legs quicker? Lord, help me and I promise—
A big leather-gloved hand clamped over her mouth, her keys flew out of her hand, and an enormous arm snaked around her ribcage, crushing the breath out of her as her attacker swung her off her feet.
He clutched her hard against his huge body. “Did you think you would outrun me?” His harsh laugh drilled into her eardrum.
Do you see the difference? First of all you add a lot more words when you go Deep POV. If you compare these two examples, I hope you’ll notice how much more involved you are in the story. That’s because you now know what is going on in Jess’s head. Moreover, you should get a sense of the type of person she is. That’s characterization, something that doesn’t happen when you write using shallow POV.
Just remember, stick to only what your POV character can touch, taste, see, experience, smell, hear, feel, sense, or think. Remember also to depict each character only through another character’s pov, and use all of your human senses to create a reflection of real-life.
If you do this, you’ll significantly improve you writing skills.