This week on Thursday Technicalities, we’re going to discuss writing in deep point-of-view. This point-of-view, really, is more of a viewpoint to write from than it is a literal point-of-view, and as such, it can be used with both third, first, and second person. However, it works best with first and third person since those are the ones that readers have the easiest time acclimating to. So let’s take a look at it.
What is Deep POV?
Deep POV involves an entire shift in viewpoint and perspective as a writer. It requires you to go deep into your characters’ minds to understand how they talk and how they think. Why? Because deep POV is, at the heart of it, writing the scenes in the voice of the character. This is relatively easy to do in first person because it naturally lends itself to this, but it’s much harder to do in third person. However, it makes a huge difference in the writing.
Writing Deep POV
With deep POV defined, let’s go over how to write it. To begin with, let’s take a look at the difference deep POV makes. We should know what it looks like before we go into how to write in deep POV.
Consider this example before it’s written in deep POV:
“Orian couldn’t believe they’d asked him to do this. If he’d known what was at stake, he thought, he wouldn’t have done this. He never would’ve gotten her involved either. Now, with the betrayal in her eyes fresh in his mind, he found it was all he could think of. He couldn’t think of the fact that he’d won or the fact that his masters were pleased. He could only think of those bright blue eyes full of pain and disappointment.”
Now consider the same paragraph, but in deep POV.
“Why had they asked him to do this? He never should’ve done what they said. Never would’ve if they’d told him what was at stake before they’d sent him here. He clutched at his chest. Those bright blue eyes invaded his mind, his very being. He wouldn’t have gotten her involved either, really, he wouldn’t have. But it was too late. With the look of betrayal in her eyes filling his head, he had never hated himself more. That anguish cut to the quick. What sort of pleasure had duty brought? None. Pain and bitterness were his only companions now. That and the galling pleasure his masters took in his success. But what was that worth? Nothing. Not when he’d lost her. Not when the disappointment and despair in her eyes was all he could think of.”
See the difference? In the first, the narrator tells us about what Orian is thinking and feeling. In the second one, we see everything through Orian’s eyes, and he tells us what is going on. Something worth noting about deep POV is that it often results in longer writing, not just richer writing. The nice thing is, though, that even though it leads to longer pieces, readers are still willing to read it because deep POV has an effect that pulls the reader right into the story as if they themselves could be the character.
Now, let’s go over some of the key things you need to keep in mind in order to write something that’s deep point-of-view.
To begin with, the first key to writing in deep point-of-view is to let your author’s voice disappear in favor of the characters’. You aren’t writing about your viewpoint character. You’re writing as them. Therefore, don’t use words or phrases that remind the reader of the author’s presence. These are filter words like: heard, smelled, notice, feel, know, or noted, among others. If a character is telling us the story in the immediate moment, they won’t tell us he heard the birds chirping. He’d just say the birds are chirping. Here are a few examples of how this works:
Third-Person Limited before Deep POV
Horace noticed that the woman was unusually tall.
The woman was freakishly tall.
Third Person Limited (Before Deep POV)
Angelina felt he couldn’t get much worse than he was, but somehow, she thought, he had managed.
After Deep POV:
He couldn’t get much worse, but somehow he had managed. Angelina shook her head.
The second key ties into the first, and that’s the voice you use as you’re writing. Since you’re writing in deep POV, each scene must be written in the voice of your viewpoint character. This means that if you have a character who speaks British English, then you would use phrases and lingo within the narration itself that your viewpoint character would use. Let’s look at an example of how this works out with a character who is a bit more of the backwoods hillbilly character.
Written outside of deep POV:
He couldn’t believe she’d just said that. She should know that sort of thing wasn’t acceptable here. If she’d said it to anyone else, he thought, she’d be sent out of town with a gun barrel to her head. But, here she was with a smile on her face, expecting him to just overlook her behavior.
She ain’t kiddin’, is she? The girl had been sniffing around enough to know that kinda thing wasn’t going to fly around here. Anyone else woulda marched her on outta town with a gun to her pretty temple. But here she was, with as pretty a smile as could be on that fresh face of hers, and just waiting for him to smile back. Crazy city girl.
In this version, you can see that not everything is formal or even “grammatically” correct, but you get an immediate idea of the voice of the character.
The final thing we’ll discuss on writing deep point-of-view has to do with explanations. Sometimes, it’s okay for a character to explain something. But many times explanations become extraneous and end with the character explaining to themselves something they already know. For example:
Rowen eyed the buck. If he didn’t hit it just right with the arrow, it would ruin the meat. Then his mother would be angry with him for failing to bring back food for the night.
Okay, so if Rowen is a hunter, even if he isn’t the best hunter, he already knows he needs to hit the deer just right or risk ruining the meat. He would also already know that his mother will be angry. So, here’s the deep POV version.
Rowen eyed the buck. Hit it just right and they’d have dinner. He leveled the bow and smiled. The best part was the way his mother’s eyes would light up when she saw him dragging this buck into camp.
Here, he isn’t explaining anything that he already knows. Only reflecting on the information in brief in a way that anyone might do. This is really important in writing in deep POV because no one explains things to themselves that they already know, so you have to find ways to write it that avoids that.
Alright, everyone! I know this is a long article, but hopefully it’s helpful to everyone. If you have questions or other things you want to add that you’ve learned about deep POV, please feel free to share those in the comments! I have also included some links below for additional reading on this subject because it’s a huge subject and not something this article is able to cover completely.