Going In Deep: Point of View (POV)
By Ash Krafton
It’s time again for my semi-annual work-in-progress RWA chapter contest blitz.
not familiar with this somewhat threatening-sounding phrase should rest
easy. It’s just my way of getting feedback on my manuscripts. Beta
readers are critical to the editing process, and I have my own trusted
circle of constructive critics. However, sometimes I need more than a
reader’s opinion—I need to hear it straight from the pros.
one of the reasons why I often enter my manuscripts into writing
contests. I choose contests that encourage the judges to provide
specific comments about various elements of a novel because, more than
anything else, I want the feedback (http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2012/06/using-writing-contests-to-improve-ones.html)
. I’ll enter a few contests, wait for the score sheets to come back,
then start looking over them for similar comments among the returns.
as usual, my judges have come through. One specific comment kept
popping up, so I knew I had to address the issue. (I also figured it
would make a great writing craft post. See? When I lose contests,
everyone wins. Just my way of paying it forward.)
That issue was deep point of view.
just completed the third in a series that was written in first person
POV. The heroine was an empath and, frankly, writing those books can be
emotionally draining. When I started my new WIP, I knew I wanted some
distance between my feelings and those of the character. The first thing
I did was make her spellbound and magically restrained from
experiencing any emotion. (Naturally.)
The second thing I did was write it from a third person POV.
personal distancing wasn’t the only reason for choosing that particular
POV. This book is a romance, and I wanted to be able to provide story
from the hero’s POV at times. This was an option that was completely
denied to me when writing the Demimonde series, because that story is
told entirely in single first POV.
However, a few of my recent
judges suggested I go into deep POV when writing the heroine’s chapters.
Not entirely sure what these judges meant, I hit the books for another
lesson on the craft of writing.
Deep POV is like a third person
POV swimming pool. If third person has the character standing on the
deck, deep POV is throwing the character into the water. The point is to
write the story as if walking around in the character’s skin without
using a first person technique.
Tips to Deepen the POV
One of my judges pointed out that, in deep POV, a character doesn’t use
many dialog tags. For instance, when having a conversation with your
friend, you don’t mentally add things like "I said". You just say it.
You don’t look at a person’s feet and think I wonder where she bought those shoes? You simply think Where did she get those shoes? (And, perhaps Why didn’t she get a second pair for me?)
a story, though, we still need tags to keep it clear which character is
speaking. I like to substitute action for a "she/he said" tag. "That’s my pen," she said can become "That’s my pen." She marched over to him and snatched it from his hand. Better story, and you have no doubt who spoke.
We experience the world through our senses. Likewise, your reader
should experience the story through the character’s senses. Sensory
details bring the reader deeper into the character’s POV.
Show emotions, don’t tell: The most valuable tip I’ve read so far is to forget the names of actual emotions and just describe their effects. She became angry when he yelled at her can be She fisted her hands and pinned them under her arms. If he didn’t knock off the yelling, she’d shut his mouth with a tight slap.
This would be the first time I can disassociate the words “filtered”
and “purity” because filtered writing does not create a pure reader
experience. When we use words like see, thought, hear, feel, decide, wonder, realize, or watch,
we put up a barrier of sorts between the reader and the character.
Eliminating those filter words deepen the POV by giving the details from
a first-hand perspective.
He watched the dog jump onto the table becomes The dog jumped onto the table. You bring the action directly to the reader. She thought he was very handsome can become She resisted a long, low whistle. Wow. Talk about smoking hot.
See? No filters means less distance between reader and experiencing--and that is the essence of deep POV.
Deep Isn’t For Everyone
ultimately have to decide what POV is best for their characters, their
books, and especially their writing style. Not every book can be told in
deep POV and not ever writer is comfortable writing in that style.
it’s a simple matter of genre. Romance works with a deep POV because
the reader wants to experience the emotional journey of the heroine and
hero. (However, romance still works without going deep. Single third is a
common POV style for this genre.) I found this article to be a helpful reference on genre/preferred POV http://www.amypadgett.com/2006/08/craft-point-of-view-and-genre.html so check that out if you need a primer (like I did).
Getting back to the judge feedback…
I nailed deep POV for the hero. He’s an emotionally volatile creature
so it was all too easy to get into his skin. My heroine…not so much. My
attempt to distance myself from this character was a little too
successful because, not only was I distanced, but the reader was
That’s not something we want for our stories—we
want readers lost in our books. While amazing plotlines and complex
personalities are essential to a captivating story, writers can
fine-tune the POV to create the ultimate reader experience.
Stranger at the Hell Gate (Wild Rose Press, Black Rose, 2013)