Friday, November 4, 2011

What is Your Novel Missing? Deep POV

The first time I read a critique telling me to write in a deeper POV, I wasn't quite sure where to start or even exactly what that meant. How did I get even deeper when I already felt like the reader could really relate to my character?

So I studied up over the years, and though I still get that critique here and there, I've discovered ways to take that POV deeper and a process that will help me do so.

What is Deep POV?

Deep POV is intimate third person. It's showing readers instead of telling them. It's helping the reader create a bond with the character - much like first person - and it can also mean have a stronger voice.

And how do we write in deep POV?

Show Don't Tell

Do you ever get those critiques that say, SHOW me that the character is happy/sad/angry/etc., don't TELL me!

What they're saying is, write in a deeper POV. Don't tell the reader the emotion, show them.

For example:

Instead of writing, Veronica was happy.

Try instead, Veronica's smile stretched wide across her face.

You're giving the reader the idea that Veronica is very happy without ever having to identify the emotion.

Also, try taking out all those telling words like saw, watched, heard.

For example:

Becca walked to the window and heard the dog barking in the back yard.

Instead, try Becca walked to the window, the dog's piercing barks reaching her through two panes of glass.

Reaction, then Action

Showing not telling is a great start, and another tactic I've tried is following a process of reaction. Give the character a reaction and an action (not necessarily physical). Sometimes it will be as simple as one or two lines, and sometimes it will be three or four (reaction, internal action like a thought, and then another action--usually physical).

Let's say Veronica's best friend Louise just yelled at her for missing Louise's birthday party.

This is how we might initially write Veronica's reaction in limited third person.

Veronica stared at her friend in surprise (here we're naming the emotion). She hadn't missed the party on purpose and now she wanted to yell that right back at Louise (more telling here).

Now let's try deep POV.

Veronica's mouth dropped open (showing surprise instead of telling, a reaction). It wasn't my fault, I told you I had to work! (internal action, getting closer to the character) She folded her arms against her chest and faced Louise, taking a deep breath (physical action).

"I'm sorry I missed your party but I didn't have a choice."

Now we're not telling the reader Veronica's surprised and indignant but we're showing through a series of reactions and actions.

Reveal Your Character

In the example above, we're not only showing we're also giving the reader a sense of Veronica's personality, which is what deep POV is all about. Veronica is coming through. It helps to put the reader directly in the scene instead of making them feel like they're watching from afar.

Other ways to keep the reader in closer proximity to the scene.

Make sure you know your character. Give them a unique personality and then SHOW the story through their eyes, not yours. That means directing the scene as your character would see it in every way possible - especially through their senses, as well as their thoughts and actions.

Show their thoughts. This doesn't mean you have to write every thing your character thinks or even put all those thoughts in italics. It does mean giving the reader a deeper look at what's inside, like the example above. Your character is going to react to things in their own unique way and if you can convey that through a thought or their reaction, it will give the reader a greater insight into who your character is.

Have any of you ever struggled with deep POV in the past? What tricks do you use to write deep POV and make your reader feel like they're right there in the scene?


This post brought to you by Cindy R. Wilson

Cindy is a Colorado native, living near the mountains with her husband and three beautiful daughters. She writes contemporary Christian romance, seeking to enrich lives with her stories of faith, love, and a touch of humor.

To learn more about Cindy, visit her at her personal blog,


Anonymous said...

I am guilty of this telling stuff! Try as I might, I still tell even after I have edited. It's an annoying problem I have! :)

Great post!

Beth K. Vogt said...

I so appreciate practical "here's what I'm talking about" kind of posts.
Thanks, Cindy!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Cindy, what a great post! I appreciate the examples and suggestions for crafting deeper POV. I'm working through my first draft, but I'm definitely keeping this post for when I go back through it to deepen POV. Thanks!

Keli Gwyn said...

Great post, Cindy. You did a fine job of showing us what deep POV looks like. I work on developing deep POV in my stories by using all the elements you mentioned.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Great post, Cindy! I've also learned to look for those distance words like "saw", "wondered", "thought" and then eliminate them to dive straight into the character's head and thoughts.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Sherrinda, I think it's just so natural for us to write that way sometimes. And then we're used to it enough that our eyes skip right over it during editing--I know mine do!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

So happy it helped, Beth. Sometimes it's easier to see what people are saying instead of trying to fit it into our own understanding of a rule or idea. Have a great weekend!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hi Jeanne! Examples are fun, huh? :) I have to keep them for my story, too. I kept putting "heard" in my story - and that was AFTER I'd already written this post. Better follow my own advice ;) I can't wait until you write in and tell us your first draft is done--I'm rooting for you!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hey Keli, I bet you do a great job with showing not telling! I can't wait to read your book :) Have a wonderful weekend!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Yes, Sarah! Looking for those words is a great place to start. It's kind of daunting at first but once you get going, it gets easier and you learn the best ways to eliminate them and go deeper.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Totally fab post, Cindy.
I especially appreciated the examples:)
I had a tough writing instructor who red penned all my "heard" "saw", etc words. Oh my, my page had more red than black or white!
BUT, now I find these words in my work as quick as if a neon blinking arrow pointed at them. Last night I ripped off my 1000 words in one hour..I cringed each time a "heard" or "saw" had the nerve to appear on my screan--DELETE--DELETE! GO AWAY!

Pepper said...

Great post, Cindy.
I have trouble with all three of the things you mentioned, but I think particularly reaction,action.
And telling.

I love getting into my characters' heads. I think making sure we use their lingo and their life experiences to view their world instead of ours is very important. My cattle farmer isn't going to describe a sunrise the same way as my heroine-professor. She'll probably use more descriptive and complex words and longer sentences. He's going to state it 'like it is' with shorter sentences and probably simpler words.

Orange-hued sunlight rose over the distant mountains haloing the morning with light. Dee pulled her jacket tighter around her shoulders and welcomed the morning. Could a God who put such exquisite detail into a sunrise place the same intimate care on her life?

Reese slowed his pace to the barn just to take in the sunrise. He never got tired of seeing how God started the day. He tossed a glance heavenward in quick thanks. At least somebody knew what was going on in this crazy world.

Casey said...

Great post, Cindy! I started out writing third, went to first and am back in third person POV. I know one of the things I've tried to do is any thought I might have put in italics in third person, I just have them think it.

Okay, for example: Brad crossed his arms. This was so not going to happen.

Instead of putting a thought in italics, just have the it! I guess is what I'm trying to say. It's the greatest lesson first person taught me.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Mary, that's great those words stand out to you so obviously, especially during a first draft. And good job on getting those words down--lately 1,000 even in an hour is a challenge for me ;)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Pepper, LOVE your examples. You did a great job getting across something similar but in two different voices. This is definitely something that challenges me and it's great to see how simply you made those distinctions.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Casey, great example. Leaving out those italics just makes the eye skim right through and the reader feel like they're standing right there with Brad from your example :) This is the kind of stuff Deep POV is about! Have a great weekend!

Joanne Sher said...

What a fabulous post, and explanation. This is definitely something I'm working on - and I know I'm not alone!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Great post, Cindy!

Pepper, love your examples!

I had no idea what deep POV was the first time a judge scrawled it across my entry. Took a lot of searching and studying and I still don't do it as well as I'd like.

It wasn't until I read some really good authors who do a fabulous job of Deep POV that the light bulb went off! I finally recognized it and could attempt to do it in my own work.


Jacqueline Howett said...

Great tips! Thanks for your interesting examples. Although I get it, it might take a moment for it to really sink in. I can just see myself, pausing over everything I have written now!

I would love to hear more samples. I think I'll return here later to re-read more on 'deep POV.' and also google it.

What books do you recommend that have a seriously heavy flow of this?

Enjoy your weekend!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Joanne, this is definitely something most of us are working on. It doesn't seem to come as naturally as description or great dialogue and such.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Sue, like I said in the comment above, this aspect of writing just doesn't seem to come as naturally as others. It's great for us to be aware of it in our writing. Even if we still stray from deep POV, recognizing it will help us get back on track! Have a great weekend!

Casey said...

And the same to your coming weekend. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Jacqueline, yes definitely read through the comments, there are already a few examples and some of the top Google sites should give you some more to go on.

As far as authors, I've been so behind on my reading I don't have too many examples. One that immediately came to mind, though, is Jenny B. Jones. Her book Just Between You and Me did a great job with deep POV, I felt so connected to the main character, like I was right in her head most of the time. Also, Mary Conneally does some great showing not telling.

How about you other readers or Alley cats? Can you think of any books you've read recently that do a good job with deep POV?

Pepper said...

Thanks Susan & Cindy
Mary Connealy writes deep POV well. I think Susan May Warren does too, doesn't she, Case?

There are lots who are good 'teachers'

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Yes, both of those, Pepper. Thanks! I believe Camy Tang did some posts on deep POV over at her Story Sensei blog at some point, too, and I bet she gives some great examples.