Many blogs repeat the same four to six points on writing in deep POV, so you read those and think – heh, that doesn’t look too hard. But your efforts continually fall short with beta readers, critique partners and editors. They say ‘go deeper’ and you scratch your head – but you DID go deeper. Let’s dive into the most common reasons deep POV isn’t working for newer writers and look at some solutions.
**This post got super long, so I’ve split it into parts.**
Point Of View Problems
You need a clear understanding of point of view for deep POV to work. This is not a beginner-friendly style to write in, so *deep breath* don’t give up.
Third person POV is a story from the he/she, they/them perspective. There are different ways to use third person POV. First person POV is the I, me, we, us perspective and there are different ways to use first person POV. Neither first person nor third person (or any version of either) is deep POV. You can learn more about first person POV here, and learn more about third person POV here.
- · First Person POV heavily leans on the narrator/author voice when telling a story from a single character’s perspective. The POV narrator/character may or may not be the protagonist (so they may or may not be privy to the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings), the narrator could also be omniscient and outside the story itself.
- · Limited Third Person POV uses the author voice (no narrators) to tell a story about a single character at a time. The author is only privy to the thoughts and emotions of a single character at a time, and that character may express thoughts directly to the reader (often differentiated from the author voice with italics).
- · Deep POV isn’t strictly a point of view issue, the name is a little confusing. It’s an additional layer of point of view applied to either first person or third person POV. In deep POV there’s no author/narrator voice.
Let’s look at some examples:
First Person POV: I stretched out my legs under the table as Sally peeled the label off the empty wine bottle. She would never look at me when there was tension between us. From down the street, Macy’s apartment building loomed over the café. The words froze in my gut. How did I tell Sally I didn’t love her anymore?
Limited Third Person POV: Sally peeled the label off the empty wine bottle. She wouldn’t even look at him. George tucked his feet under his chair and drummed his fingers on the table, frustration making him twitchy. He stared off down the street at the apartment building where Macy lived, his gut twisting with the words he couldn’t quite get out. He didn’t love Sally anymore.
Deep POV: Sally sat, shoulders rounded like a turtle in its shell, peeling the label on the empty wine bottle. George tucked his heels under his chair and let his gaze wander down the street to Macy’s building. The modern glass structure loomed over the frozen-in-time café Sally preferred. He sucked in a deep breath, his gut clenching, his throat tight. “Sally, I don’t love you anymore.” The words erupted out.
The elimination of the author/narrator voice in deep POV requires you to give the reader two plus two and let them add it up to four. This means your description and observation skills must be on point, otherwise the reader won’t ‘get it’ and feel lost.
Head Hopping Problems
Adjacent to the issue with understanding how POV works, there are often head hopping issues. While there are first person and third person styles that use the omniscient viewpoint, it’s not all that common in popular fiction (sorry to all the diehard fans of Austen, Dickens, and Tolkien).
In contemporary popular fiction, the reader is only privy to what the POV character knows, intuits, learns, etc.
POV Violation: Cassandra kept her claws rounded and painted, her antennae erect and shiny. The green-skinned passersby approved of her with a nod and then dismissed the messy Steve who followed her.
Cassandra can’t know what others think of her or anyone else. This is an example of the author telling the reader the answer is four, instead of just giving the reader two plus two and letting them lean in and figure it out.
Deep POV: Cassandra examined the precisely-filed ends of her claws. A green-skinned man approached her, and his eyes widened and his antennae arched away from her. She checked her antennae, but they were perfect. She spun. Steve slumped along behind her, his left antennae bent and limp. Sickly splotches of purple marred his green skin.
See the difference?
No Emotions Are Added
One of the most prevalent pieces of advice I’ve seen about deep POV is to remove emotion words. This relates back directly to give the reader two plus two, don’t tell them the answer is four. Newer writers learn to remove the emotion words, but don’t know how to add that emotion back in via showing and not using the author/narrator voice.
Sally anxiously waved at Mark from across the room.
Anxiously is an emotion word, so we know that’s the author voice creeping in.
Sally waved at Mark from across the room, wanting him to respond.
This is a common fix, but ‘wanting’ is still the author voice creeping in. It’s insidious, it’ll sneak in everywhere you’re unsure of what to say.
Sally rose up on her toes, heat crept into her cheeks. He finally looked at her and she lifted her hand to wave. What if he’s not looking at her? She sank back onto her heels and hid her hand behind her back, cutting the wave short.
With this last example, I’ve given the reader two plus two. Hopefully, reading that, you can figure out that she’s anxious, but in addition to that, when deep POV is done well, the WHY behind the emotion is shared as well. Why is Sally anxious? Because she doesn’t know if Mark even sees her.
Stay tuned for part two next week. What’s your biggest struggle with deep POV?