This blog is about going Beyond Basics so the posts here aim to help you take your writing to the next level. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you know I LOVE Deep Point of View (POV). Deep POV aims to create an immersive experience for readers. Think of it like strapping a GoPro to your character or giving your reader a virtual reality headset. That’s how deep readers want to be in the story.
The problem many have learning Deep POV is that most of the books and workshops out there tick off the same basic strategies: eliminate distance, write with immediacy, ditch speech tags, and write tight. These basics will get you started but you need to up your game and get better tools to make deep POV work for your story.
So let’s go Beyond Basics. Here are some Pro Tips you need to master to write Deep POV well.
Ever had a conversation where what you’re saying doesn’t match what’s being spoken about? Hubs didn’t call to tell you he would be late and miss dinner. He arrives home bearing a bouquet of flowers. What do you do? If all is forgiven, you might take a moment to smell his offering and lean in for a kiss. If you’re still mad but will get over it, you might accept the flowers but make sure your fingers don’t touch his in the gift exchange. If you’re still mad you might just talk over the television and tell him there’s a vase in the cupboard.
Subtext is gestures, glances, and body language and how that’s interpreted. It’s veiled conversations, innuendos, and shared experiences. This is a HUGE component of real life communication you need to incorporate into your fiction. But there’s art to it. The reader has to know what’s really being communicated.
Deep POV is about eliminating distance between the reader and the point of view character (POVC) and the beginner guides will tell you to look for words like watched, thought, heard, felt, etc. Remove the dialogue tags and use beats instead. Write with immediacy instead of recalling the action. These are all great starting places and are necessary, but there are so many ways you (as the writer) insert yourself into the story and break the fictive dream for readers. Learning to recognize these and eliminate them takes practice and objectivity.
This is one of those subtle bits of art that writers do that make characters come alive. This is more than dialect, accents, or slang – though those are part of it. Everything the character knows, sees, thinks and feels is filtered and interpreted through their personal history, biases, social and economic status, etc. Telling or drawing conclusions for the reader about how a character is feeling, their morals, or hang ups are force the virtual reality goggles off and puts the reader back on the sofa observing the story. Instead, you have to become the character and tell the story they way they would. The way actors get into character almost.
What a character notices (what they find ordinary, routine or out of place) gives the reader a lot of information. A city kid and a country kid walk down to the pond in the back field. The city kid is going to notice many different things the country kid who’s taken that walk a thousand times will take for granted. The country kid’s desires might come through in what he’s tired of looking at, scoffing at the city kid’s wonder.
Here’s a boring story: Matt sits alone in a bar with a beer. He notices a girl he doesn’t recognize walk in and decides to ask her out. This is not a very interesting story is it? Let’s add some character voice in.
Let’s put that story into Deep POV:
In the lull between songs on the jukebox, a pair of heels crossed the linoleum behind him. Matt swiveled away from the bar. Long dark hair was braided over one shoulder and snug jeans hugged her hips. With that buckle and those boots, must be here for the fair rodeo. He reached back for his beer and grabbed air. Heat flushed his cheeks. Her gaze lingered on his face and then wandered down to his chest. She sat two stools down and looked his way. That was practically an invitation. He tipped his hat.
This is not a great example, but there’s lots of information to be gleaned from this about Matt. However, I haven’t TOLD you anything. I haven’t drawn any conclusions for readers. I haven’t inserted myself into the story at all.
Mastering internal dialogue is KEY to writing Deep POV well. Incorporating physical obstacles and barriers for your POVC is vital for your story to work, but sometimes the biggest obstacles are internal and this is where deep POV shines. A character at war with themselves, their values, their upbringing can be very compelling and that all comes through internal dialogue. Let your POVC act one way and think another. Let their thoughts betray their real motivations and fears to the reader. Subtext and character voice incorporated into internal dialogue will ratchet up the tension.
There are many times where breaking the basic rules of Deep POV enhance the story, like telling, but you must be strategic and intentional about it. Telling used strategically can convey extreme tension or upheaval. Summarizing can prevent boring lulls or writing on the nose that slows or bogs down a good story.
If you’re interested in diving deep into Deep POV and getting more of these pro tips, consider my upcoming 3 week intensive Method Acting For Writers: Learn To Write In Deep POV. There are 21 lessons that include a video and lesson including a downloadable PDF to keep. Learn the pro tips fast and take your writing to the next level faster than Tigger on a trampoline!
This class begins January 22 (That’s This Monday!!!! Don’t Wait To Register) and is $130. You get lifetime access so you can retake the course each time it’s run (and I always include new content), personal feedback from me and other class participants, and an invitation to join a closed Facebook group where you can connect with others learning Deep POV as well.