There are still many many fans of writers like Tolkien, Austen, and Dickens, but contemporary readers (particularly genre fiction readers) are looking for more than entertainment from a book — they want an emotional experience!
“By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast smoking an enormous long pipe that reached nearly down to his wooly toes (neatly brushed) — Gandalf came by. Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
First published in 1937, The Hobbit was a stellar example of storytelling for the time. The narrator voice is prevalent and the whole work is written in the omniscient POV (both of which were common at the time).
In the early 2000’s, (perhaps earlier) readers began craving work that let them feel closer and more involved in the story and so close third person POV evolved. Strike is the POV character below.
“When informed by telephone that her husband was not, after all, at the writer’s retreat, Leonora Quine sounded anxious.
‘Where is he, then?’ she asked, more of herself, it seemed, than Strike.”
Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), The Silkworm
You can see with this closer third person style, the reader was drawn much closer into the story. The Silkworm was published in 2014 – hardly vintage. Still, readers want to be in the action of the story, they want an emotional journey — they want to be the main character.
How Does Deep Point of View Look/Feel Different?
“Chris pulled the phone away from his head and stared at it. The chill on his neck crept down his back. This guy couldn’t be for real. What he was saying about the dreams had to be a coincidence.
“He started down the sidewalk. He needed to get out of here, needed to find his dad, needed to figure out how to stop chasing his tail through life.” K.M. Weiland, Dreamlander
In this last example, the reader isn’t being “told” what’s going on, rather through what the main character sees, hears, knows, thinks, and feels, the reader must infer how the character feels to understand what’s going on. Readers have to care. They must engage and take the journey in the main character’s shoes.
Deep Point Of View Doesn’t Write For The Reader
In other less intimate POVs, the writer can insert information through a character’s internal dialogue, through dialogue tags (ie. he whispered, he wrung his hands anxiously), but in deep point of view everything is written as though the character is alone in their own heads. Beats are used instead of dialogue tags. Instead of writing a story, you’re recording a character’s journey as it happens.
No one else is privvy to the point of view character’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The reader and the writer are the main character, they’re not looking over their shoulder.
Using Deep Point of View Selectively
Not every writer who uses deep point of view uses it for their entire story. Some writers will use some aspects of deep point of view for just certain characters, or just certain scenes, to create intensity and intimacy for readers. It is possible to write an entire story in deep point of view, of course it is, but many writers come up with their own brand of deep point of view. They may continue to use italics for emphasis and dialogue tags for instance.
It’s important, as in anything else, to learn the rules first before breaking them. Strictly adhereing to the rules of deep point of view might be too restricting for you or the story you’re telling. Maybe you like the challenge and intensity and never waver from deep point of view.
In a shallower POV style (such as the Robert Galbraith example), deep POV is effective when used for selective scenes to deliver an emotional gut punch for reachers. For books written entirely in deep POV such as the K.M. Weiland example, using a shallower POV style in certain moments and situations will help keep the story moving and not get bogged down in the minutae of the everyday.
Deep Point Of View Isn’t Limited To First Person Or Third
Deep point of view is effective in either first person or third person styles. A story written in first person isn’t deep pov by default — there are many ways writers add distance between the main character and the reader even in first person stories. Deep POV is very popular among first person story writers, but there are many third person writers using deep POV as well.
Deep POV isn’t limited to a present or past tense style either. It can be used effectively either way. You can use deep point of view for every POV character in your story, or just one. You can write in past tense and use present tense for all the internal dialogue in deep point of view. It’s very flexible, the challenge will be to use it consistently (in whatever way you’re using it) in order to prevent jerking the reader out of the story experience.
Avoid Adding Distance Between Readers And Protagonists
The key to effective deep point of view is removing any hint that the reader isn’t IN the story AS IT’S HAPPENING, or that they aren’t the main character in any given scene. Writers build in distance in all kinds of ways that’s acceptable in other POV styles but not in deep point of view. Setting and description are used to do more than tell the reader where the main character is or what’s around them. Instead, in deep point of view the main character must feel their way through the setting.
Do you enjoy reading deep point of view? Do you feel it’s better suited to some genres more than others?