By Sierra Cartwright
Point of view is essentially the position of story’s narrator. (Or narrators.) Today’s fiction is most often told from either first-person or third-person point of view.
The advantage of third person is that you can tell the story from many viewpoints. But beware, switching in the same scene can lead to distracting head-hopping.
First person works in a number of genres, but it limits you to a single viewpoint for each story. Some authors write dual-first person POV, but it can be difficult to differentiate one person’s “voice” from that of the other characters.
No matter what, the challenge is to make your readers care for your characters. Deep point of view gives us a way to do that.
So What is Deep POV, and Why Should I Care?
Deep point of view is the greatest resource in a writer’s toolbox to develop characterization. It allows readers to connect more powerfully with a character.
Not only does writing in deep POV allow us to eliminate some pesky dialogue tags, it helps us eliminate filter words including noticed, thought, watched, felt, wondered, saw. When writing deep POV, the author becomes the character.
As an added benefit, when we write this way, we are more likely to show, rather than tell what’s happening to the characters, resulting in a more powerful read.
Finally, your story is stronger and told in fewer words.
(Sample rough draft of one of my stories.)
Lara was deep in thought when she exited the elevator and almost walked directly into someone.
She felt startled!
He reached for her, grabbing her upper arms to steady her.
“I beg your pardon,” she mumbled.
“Are you all right?” the tall man asked.
Lara looked up. She saw him looking at her. Electricity seemed to be humming through her veins when she realized it was Connor Donovan who was holding her. Suddenly is seemed as if time might have stopped.
“Well, well,” he said. “Ms. Bertrand.” He continued to hold her.
She wondered if she’d ever be the same again. She knew she should pull away, told herself she should flee, but she realized she couldn’t move. Every instinct told her to flee, but her feet felt as if they might be made of lead.
She felt him looking at her, so she bravely met his gaze.
The man’s dark eyebrows were furrowed together, and it made it seem that he was even more intimidating than he really was. She knew she should be frightened, but she just couldn’t force herself to look away from him.
It seemed as if an eternity had passed and she was still standing there, trying to find some sort of equilibrium. (209 words)
(Revised version, using deep POV–Bind, book 1 of the Donovan Dynasty from Totally Bound)
Lara was deep in thought when she exited the elevator and bumped into someone.
He grabbed her upper arms to steady her.
“I beg your pardon,” she mumbled.
“Are you all right?”
Lara looked up. Electricity hummed through her when she realized Connor Donovan was holding her. For a breathless moment, time stopped.
“Well, well,” he said. “Ms. Bertrand.”
Self-preservation instincts urged her to pull away, but she didn’t…couldn’t.
Their gazes held. He drew his dark eyebrows together, making him more intimidating. Rather than scaring her, his frown, his presence, compelled her attention.
She wasn’t sure how much time passed before she found a thread of equilibrium. (107 words)
Deep point of view is to writing as method acting is to a movie.
For the strongest story, plan to stay in one POV per scene. (This doesn’t mean you should craft a number of really short scenes!) Avoid head-hopping.
Rather than automatically switching between characters for each scene, ask yourself who has the most to gain/lose emotionally.
Tips at a Glance:
- Reread some of your favorite authors with a critical eye to see how she executes POV. For example, Lee Child stays in Reacher’s POV for the entire story.
- Stay in one POV per scene (and if you can, the whole chapter).
- Before each scene, ask yourself which character has the most at stake.
- To hone your skills, write an entire scene from first-person point of view.