Image: Matthew Loffhagen
When it comes to writing a book that grabs the reader, authors need every tool possible. This is especially true when getting into the minds of your characters, where it can be easy to miss the key to unlocking their potential. That’s why, in this article, I’ll be taking a look at deep point of view: what it is, where it comes from, and how you can use it.
What is deep point of view?
Beth Hill of The Editor’s Blog explains, “Deep POV is a fairly new option for writers. It’s only become popular in the last 20–40 years, but it’s made itself strongly known and keenly felt… much of current fiction is written using this viewpoint.”
Deep point of view is a technique that tears down the wall between the reader and the point-of-view character. It aims to remove every obstacle standing in the way of the reader experiencing everything the character experiences. Take a look at these sample passages:
Third-person point of view:
Molly heard her mother’s voice booming from downstairs, calling her in that particular way she did whenever she was angry. What had she done wrong this time, Molly wondered. She felt the ache in her stomach rise with every word.
“Get down here NOW!” her mother screeched.
Don’t make me, Molly prayed. She couldn’t bear her mother’s enraged face, but she knew it would be so much worse if she ignored her.
Third-person deep point of view:
A sound shattered the silence. Mom’s voice booming up the stairs. A loud and angry wave coming straight for her.
What did I do?
The familiar pain started in her stomach, twisting into a knot with every word.
“Get down here NOW!”
Don’t make me, please. It was always the same. Her mother’s bulging eyes, and the flush creeping up her neck, the shaking hands that balled into fists. The knot squeezed in her gut.
But it would be so much worse if she ignored her.
Compare the third-person point of view to the deep point of view version. How does each passage make you feel? Does deep point of view draw you more powerfully into Molly’s world?Deep point of view tears down the wall between the reader and the point-of-view character.Click To Tweet
There are several aspects of writing deep point of view that account for the difference:
- Limiting tags with dialogue and internal thought,
- Avoiding filter words like heard, felt, watched,
- Replacing the narrator’s voice with the character’s voice,
- Showing over telling.
Using deep point of view in your writing
Doing a bit of work beforehand can help writing in deep point of view become more natural. Because it involves intimate connection with your point-of-view character, you need to get to know them.
I’m talking about going beyond a character’s desires, goals, fears, and motives. In order to write in your character’s authentic voice – not the objective and removed voice of the narrator – you need to be acquainted with their worldview and beliefs, the phrases that run on a loop in their mind, the metaphors they use to make sense of their experiences, the lens through which they see the world. In the most extreme form of deep point of view, you’re writing as the character; the narrator disappears almost entirely.Writing in deep POV means knowing the bones of your characters.Click To Tweet
Once you feel you’re ready to write as your character, give it a shot. Channel that point-of-view character, and put pen to paper. It’s hard at first; you might not realize how comfortable you are in the role of narrator, but with practice, you’ll get the hang of it.
Using deep point of view as you write allows you to lean back into your intuition, to feel when the moment is right to go deeper. But if you find you just really struggle to write new scenes in the style of deep point of view, an alternative is to rewrite passages in that style during your revision stages. The advantage to this approach is that you’re able to be more intentional about which scenes should implement this tool.
Knowing the limits of deep point of view
Unlike other approaches to point of view, deep point of view – in most cases – should not be used consistently throughout the story. I hope you noticed from the sample passage that this tool makes a scene more intense, more immediate. It’s supposed to do that, but imagine reading an entire book in deep point of view. You’d be emotionally exhausted by the end!Deep point of view is emotionally tiring, so save it for moments that justify the effort. Click To Tweet
Use deep point of view with intention, picking and choosing scenes that are best served by this close-up view. How long and how often you use this tool is up to you; the point is, be discerning.
One thing to note is that there are degrees of depth with this tool. If you don’t go quite as deep, you could write in deep point of view much longer without taxing the reader. Say, for example, you remove filter words and tags but still write in the narrator’s voice, backing away from the character’s voice. That is not as deep a perspective and is thus more sustainable over time.
My point is that this is a flexible, versatile tool. Play with it, test its range, explore the possibilities. Whatever you do, do it on purpose.Deep point of view is modular; you can take what you like and leave the rest. Click To Tweet
Harnessing your writer’s toolkit
Connecting with readers is such a thrill. What author doesn’t love to hear that their book sucked us in, kept us on the edge of our seats, and had us reading into the early hours of the morning? But this level of writing takes work. Few authors can create this with ease, and sometimes, it feels like that elusive X factor is always just out of reach. But writing compelling fiction is within your grasp! Go back to your writer’s toolkit and develop your craft. With every new tool you hone, your writing will become more powerful. Start using deep point of view today and you’re guaranteed to get readers more engaged.
What tips help you write powerful, deep-point-of-view scenes? Which aspect of deep point of view is hardest for you to master? In the comments, tell us about the most recent page-turner you read and how it used deep point of view. You can also check out Your Complete Guide To Writing Perspective: Who, When, How and Struggling To Connect To Your Characters? Interview Them.