Deep POV and How It Affects Craft

by Elly Whittaker



For the last twenty years, readers have preferred reading novels where they can become the main character and join them on their journey. In other words, readers like stories where they can be in the main character’s head and heart so they can experience what they feel, see, touch, hear, and taste (Hill 2016).


But how do you know which POV you should use?


What Does Deep POV Add To a Story?


Deep POV is very useful for writing, especially for first or third person stories. It allows you to still use the correct POV (Point of View) for your genre without confusing the reader or compromising your work (Prunkl 2013). For example, in urban fantasy novels, they use a first person POV the majority of the time. Therefore, deep POV is preferred when writing these novels because the reader can travel along the hero or heroine on their journey.


Writing deep POV gives you several advantages in your story. It allows you, the writer, to do the following for the reader:


  • eliminate dialogue tags

  • stop unnecessary head-hopping

  • eliminate italics for thoughts (except telepathy in fantasy novels)

  • allows you to keep the suspense in scenes without side-tracking the reader

  • keeps the scene engaged without losing the reader

  • makes you think about which character you need to write to tell the story

  • makes it easier to keep the narrative active showing


Writing in deep first or third POV also cuts down on your word count so you can spend more time writing the story instead of getting caught up in the character’s head (Hill 2016, 4). When we do this, we don’t move the scene forward. This often bores the reader and they either skim the scene, or they skip it entirely.


DEEP POV CAN GIVE YOUR CHARACTERS VOICE


Deep POV can be used to personalize your character’s story. Since you are using your character’s thoughts and experiences, you are allowed to use jargon or terminology that your character knows (Hill 2016). However, this doesn’t give you an excuse to confuse your reader.


When you write your character, you have to think about a few things. The things you should consider are the following:


  • How many people are in the story?

  • What nicknames does this character have for their friends, family, or coworkers?

  • How do they see the side characters every day if they already know them?

  • If they’re related, do they refer to them by another title “Sis, Bro” or do they actually use their name? Or do they use both?

  • What is important to them?

  • What are their goals?

  • Their goals should ALWAYS be known in their narrative, but not repeated to death.

  • Are they willing to compromise to get to their end goal?

  • What are their morals and values?

  • These should shine in their narrative throughout the story.

  • How do they see the world and how does this shape their narrative?

  • Do they compare things to similes or they put themselves in their shoes?

  • Will their narrative to be optimist or pessimist?

  • What is their personality like?

  • Are they the type who act first and ask questions later?

  • Are they analytical?

  • Are they bubbly and happy or hiding behind a mask?

  • Are you balancing their personal life and their professional life?

  • You should also bring their personal lives into it. They’re not all just about work 24 hours a day. They go home. They see family. They date. They may hate the person they work with, but they still interact with them, nonetheless.

  • Also, they might have a different voice depending on where they are in life. Some characters and people are different at work than they are at home. 

  • What is their job?

  • An assassin is going to have a different mindset than someone in law enforcement. The same can be said with adult and child characters. A 14-year-old boy is not going to sound like a police officer or a doctor.

  • What do they know?

  • They can only act on the information they have.

  • This is especially important if you have multiple POV’s and you’ve given the reader information that your current POV character lacks.


These are some of the top questions you should think about when creating your character. These will determine what kind of voice they will have, what pop culture references they will use, and how they see the world.


Remember, you want to make sure their voice is relatable to your readers. So, if you need to modernize your character’s voice for urban fantasy, do it.


One thing to keep in mind is this: you do not want to spend a lot of time on the character’s thoughts. In other words, don’t stay in the character’s head for an entire scene, then have an action scene. Keep in mind that in a deep POV, the narrative is their thoughts and emotions, so use that to flavor the transitions from one action sequence to the next.


HOW MANY POV’S SHOULD YOU USE?


Deep POV can be useful in your narrative, but you need to know when to pull back and not jar your readers. You also need to know which characters are capable of carrying your story because not everyone is meant to tell your story.


Sometimes, this will be a trial and error process. You might have made an outline for two to three POVs in your story, but you discover while writing that one person’s POV might be like pulling teeth. Perhaps you just don’t think the POV does anything for the story.


If you’re thinking these things, you probably should pull the POV from the story, then determine if you even need another POV or not.


Sometimes, you do. Some stories require two or three POVs to tell the story because of certain subplots within the story. But most of the time, you do not need more than one or two POVs to tell a story. You can create suspenseful intensity by employing disinformation better than by providing the reader with the full story.


If you must have more than one POV in the story, it is recommended to stay in deep third POV so you do not confuse the reader. When you have too many characters (especially in deep first POV), the reader may not be able to identify who the POV is despite the voice you created for them.


Beth Hill from The Editor’s Blog has done a great article on Deep POV and when to use it or create some distance from the reader temporarily. You can reference this article here.


WHAT POV SHOULD I WRITE FOR MY GENRE?


However, if you want to know what types of POV you should be using for your genre, you should read what the other successful authors are using. POV and narrative style are tropes you can use in shaping a to-market story.


However, take a look at the story as well. Do you need more POV’s to tell the story well? If so, you might want to use third person. Do you need to limit the knowledge of the reader? If so, you might want to choose deep 1st person. Do you want the reader to feel something in particular in the story? Then perhaps you need to choose either deep 1st or deep 3rd. 


And then take a look at yourself as an author. What are you comfortable with writing? Some authors don’t enjoy writing deep POV. Some authors excel at a limited third-person POV. No matter what the genre norms are, you still have to write within your strengths.


Whatever you choose, you should choose the POV that is right for the story you are going to tell, and then learn how to write it well.


REFERENCES FOR DEEP POV


The Editor’s Blog

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. They offer a workshop on Deep POV

A Busy Writer’s Guide: Deep Point of View – Marcy Kennedy

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hill, Beth. “Deep POV and Narrative Distance – Part 1.” The Editor's Blog. Revised on August 14, 2016. https://theeditorsblog.net/2011/11/16/deep-pov-whats-so-deep-about-it/.

Hill, Beth. “Deep POV-What's So Deep About It.” The Editor's Blog. Revised on July 21, 2016. http://theeditorsblog.net/2016/07/19/deep-pov-and-narrative-distance-part-1/

Prunkl, Arlene. “How to Write Deep POV: It's All in Your Perspective.” PenUltimate Editorial Services. September 26, 2013. http://penultimateword.com/editing-blogs/how-to-write-deep-pov-its-all-in-your-perspective/.

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