Deep Point of View is one of many techniques writers may deploy from their arsenal of skills in order to craft a book to their highest capabilities. It’s a technique that I’ve become passionate about since my first editor for my debut novel set me straight about writing Deep and writing in the now. I’ve published a handbook on the subject called Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View....*UPDATE...IT IS FREE this Saturday and Sunday on Kindle. GET YOUR COPY WITHOUT FAIL!!!
In this blog post, we’ll take a peek at a few characteristics of Deep POV—what it is and what it isn’t—in order to gain a stronger understanding of the purpose and nature of this technique.
Following is a vital term that you’ll see a lot: Narrative Distance. Writers create narrative distance when they consciously or unconsciously insert an invisible narrator between the POVC and the reader. This issue is also known as author intrusion and is not the same as purposefully choosing omniscient POV as best suited to tell an epic tale—but that’s another topic.
- Deep POV eliminates narrative distance.
When reading a book written in Deep POV readers will feel like there is nothing between them and what is happening to the Point of View Character (POVC). In Deep POV, we don't want thoughts or actions told or explained by a third party; we want to live the events inside the POVC's head. The narrative should read like the thoughts going through the character's mind but without the need to italicize as in direct thought quotations.
Following are a few examples that demonstrate what a sentence might look like with that annoying, invisible narrator buzzing in the reader’s ear and then with the narrator removed.
With the narrator:
She wished she could whisk back in time and redo the last few minutes.
Without the narrator:
Too bad life didn’t come with an undo button like a computer.
With the narrator:
He had to think hard about what to do next.
Without the narrator:
What should he do next?
With the narrator:
Jason’s scowl caused Meg to shudder.
Without the narrator:
If Jason’s scowl turned any blacker, lightning would strike her dead.
- Deep POV is not a long string of internal monologue.
Your narrative should not stall out with the POVC endlessly nattering to himself while nothing in particular happens around him. Action and contemplation alike should be Deep, with clear-cut comments from within the character’s psyche alternating and flowing with the external activity. In Deep POV, no gulf stretches between what the character feels internally and what is going on around him. They feed off each other in smooth and dynamic rhythm.
Here’s an example from Reluctant Runaway, Book Two in my To Catch a Thief series. The heroine, Desiree, has been abandoned in the desert, and now she’s run into double trouble—a notorious motorcycle gang. Notice how her inner monologue flows naturally with the external conversation and activity—all in Deep POV.
Desi stared into the flat gray eyes of the lead motorcyclist. He wore a black denim shirt with the sleeves ripped off and the seams hanging ragged. His bronzed arms were a rolling terrain of muscle and ink. A massive pewter cross dangled from his neck on a leather cord, and a sliver of tattoo peeked from his shirt neck.
Was she face-to-face with the infamous Snake Bonney? He wasn’t as big as she’d first thought, charging down on her like that. But he was no pip-squeak either. She’d be no match for him by himself, much less with the gang of hard-faced clones around him. She swallowed—or started to, but she couldn’t find a drop of saliva.
A hard grin split the leader’s reddish beard. “You lost?” His voice resembled his motorcycle’s rumble.
“Out for a walk.” Her words came out a croak. “Headed back to the road. The way you—” cough— “came.” She coughed again and then took a quick sip from the canteen. “See?” She held up the water container. “I’m prepared.”
He pointed at her headdress. “You’re far out.”
Desi blinked. Far out? This guy wasn’t old enough to be a seventies reject. Must be some kind of Sonny Barger hero emulation. Of course, the founder of the Hell’s Angels was decades older now, like the rest of the world, and probably didn’t talk that way anymore either. Not a good time to point that out, but—Okay, she was thinking goofy things to keep from panicking.
“I’ll be on my way now. Bye.” She stepped forward.
The cycles revved . .
You can see that Desiree thinks many things in an internal voice that is clearly her own, but none of these thoughts require italics. This takes us to our next point.
- Deep POV is not italicized.
Increasing the amount of italicized direct thought quotations does not transform your narrative into Deep POV. The object of Deep POV is to anchor the reader inside the POVC’s head without continually quoting verbatim from her mind.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
Jane looked out the window. Wow! Look at that sunshine and the dew sparkling on the roses. What a perfect day for gardening. I’d better go get my tools. She went to the garage and scanned her shelves. Now, where did I put my gloves and trowel?
In the above example, we are certainly in Jane’s head—uncomfortably so—but the abundance of italics and the hip-hop between “she” and “I” will soon become tedious to the reader.
Here is an example of the same narrative written in Deep POV.
Jane looked out the window. The dew on the roses sparkled in the morning sunlight. Wow! Would there ever be a better day for gardening? Humming, she hurried into the garage. Her gaze searched the wooden shelves. Where had she stored her gloves and trowel?
Deep POV does use italics for brief direct thought quotations, but no more frequently than in shallow POV. The use of italicized verbatim thoughts should be limited to exclamations or colloquialisms that require the extra emphasis of italics.
- Deep POV will eliminate most, if not all, problems with show/don’t tell.
Is anyone ready to do the happy dance? It’s nearly impossible to “tell” in Deep POV, because that annoying, invisible narrator has been given the boot!
Following is the opening paragraph of Calculated Revenge, my spring 2010 release for Love Inspired Suspense. It is written in Deep POV.
The grimy backpack rested abandoned against the playground fence. Laney Thompson’s eyes riveted on the school bag, but her feet stuck to the gravel near the swings. What was the matter with her? The students had rushed less than a minute ago into the elementary school building after noon recess. One of them must have forgotten the bag. Simple explanation. Then why did her skin pebble as if she stood on this Minnesota playground in mid-January rather than the balmy end of May?
Here’s the same paragraph regressed into “telling” mode. Can you spot the flat, telling, narrator intrusion?
Laney Thompson saw the grimy backpack resting abandoned against the playground fence. She tried to step toward it, but something kept her from moving her feet. She’d watched the students rush less than a minute ago into the elementary school building after noon recess. One of them must have forgotten the bag, she thought. She considered that a logical explanation. Yet she felt her skin pebble as if she stood on this Minnesota playground in mid-January rather than the balmy end of May.
- The expert user of Deep POV will know that there are times to “tell.”
Even stories written primarily in Deep POV will contain times when it is a favor to the story to condense and “tell” certain types of mundane and transitional events and then “go deep” when the real action commences once more. As in all things creative, the artist must be sensitive to rhythm and balance.
The following is an example of how Deep POV can flow with the brief moments when it is time to go less deep in order to move the story along:
Mom turned the vehicle into the mall parking lot. In the back seat, I sat up stiff. What? We weren’t headed for the zoo? Here, I’d been practicing that Blue Macaw whistle, so high and sweet. Today was supposed to be the day the bright bird answered my call. A few minutes later, I was stuck indoors, shuffling along cold tiled floors while my sister hunted for the perfect dress. Yeah, right! Like that would ever happen.
Notice how closely we stay inside this young girl’s head throughout the passage, except for that transitional phrase when I go shallow in order to move the characters from the car to the interior of the mall. By saying “a few minutes later,” I eliminate paragraphs of mundane activity that could turn tedious and are unnecessary to the story. This is an example of when and how to pull back seamlessly then zoom in again.
Now, we’ve covered some basics of what Deep POV will do for your manuscript, as well as what it should not look like. Have you read books that exhibited these characteristics and that you now realize were written in Deep POV? If so, I recommend that you begin finding more such books and studying the technique. One of the best ways to learn and reinforce a new craft skill is by observing how masters do it.
If you’re scratching your head about what authors this might include, I have a few recommendations. Anything by Brandilyn Collins is written in excellent Deep POV. You should also check out books by Karen Ball. She is the former editor who yanked my skill level up by the bootstraps by imparting these techniques during the editorial process for my debut novel. Colleen Coble is another author who writes mostly Deep third person. Also, it probably goes without saying that my books are written in Deep POV. (Hah! I said it!)
Award-winning author and writing teacher, Jill Elizabeth Nelson, writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith. Jill is a popular speaker for conferences, writers groups, library associations, and civic and church groups. She delights to bring the “Ahah! Moment” to her students as they make new skills their own. Her handbook for writers, Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, is now available at Amazon.
Visit Jill on the web at: www.jillelizabethnelson.com or look her up on Facebook or Twitter. Her next release is Betrayal on the Border, coming in December from Love Inspired Suspense.
Seekerville is DELIGHTED to have Jill with us today. I've downloaded her book and it's a classic for your writing tool bookshelf.
*UPDATE...Jill has just announced that, starting tomorrow and on Sunday, Rivet Your Reader with Deep POV is FREE FREE FREE. Because of that we will change our five copies giveaway to a ONE HUNDRED PERCENT GIVEAWAY, THANKS TO JILL'S GENEROSITY. Wait until tomorrow, then go get your copy FREE.
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