We’re continuing in our FAQ series on Deep POV. The question that came in was: How do you write with immediacy?
There are a few foundational rules with deep point of view and writing with immediacy and removing distance are two of them. If you don’t write with immediacy you add perceived distance between the reader and the story, which is exactly what deep pov tries to eliminate. As I considered this question, I realized that I haven’t written much about this here or in my book, so let’s break this down.
Simply put, immediacy is writing as though everything in the story is happening right now.
Is Past Or Present Tense More Immediate?
Some writers get hung up on writing in past or present tense when asked about immediacy. Are you writing He is… or He was…? With deep point of view, there isn’t a right or wrong answer here. You can write in deep pov with immediacy equally well in past or present tense.
Is First Or Third Person Better?
Again – wrong question. I see many blogs out there saying first person is more intimate than third person, but I disagree. Written equally well, a reader can immerse themselves just as well in a first or third person story. Some readers will have a preference, many writers have a preference, one or the other is more popular in some genres.
I would like to clarify that writing in first person doesn’t automatically make your writing deep point of view (or more immediate). I’ve written about first or third person here. This is a distraction in the discussion about writing with immediacy or deep point of view.
What Is Writing With Immediacy?
Writing with immediacy is capturing the story as the character moves through a scene. Think of it like strapping a GoPro to your point of view character (POVC).
If story is a car, omniscient POV puts the reader in the back seat away from the action. A limited POV puts the reader in the shotgun seat beside the driver. Deep point of view puts the reader in the POVC’s lap in the driver’s seat. They see/hear/know/learn/feel everything the POVC does, but that’s ALL they know. The entire story is filtered through the POVC as though they are living the story in real time. It’s a first-person shooter style of storytelling.
Avoid The Narrator Voice
The narrator voice slips in particularly if you’re more familiar with the omniscient point of view style (or, I’ve found this happens among writers who, as readers, detest feeling tension when reading themselves). This is a stylistic choice that makes sure the reader knows everything is OK before the conflict really heats up. I can’t give you a template or a list of words to do a search for. It all depends on the effect the phrase creates.
Some examples might be:
- Later, he would realize this had all been a dream. (and then the dream sequence begins)
- If only she’d known how Brad would react, she’d have kept her mouth shut. (and then she says the thing she later regrets saying)
This idea of hindsight or looking back before the event comes off as author intrusion in deep point of view and it adds distance. Now, this doesn’t mean your character can’t second guess themselves, but it’s expressed after they’ve done something. It can also work in a self-fulfilling prophecy sense. This is a bad idea or I’m going to regret this… and then they step into the hard thing as an act of courage or whatever. That’s different than this all-knowing narrator slipping into the story foretelling the future.
Writing in this way, especially in deep point of view, undercuts the tension for readers. By reassuring readers that the character will be safe no matter what’s about to happen, the reader is chucked into the backseat of the story car surrounded with bubble wrap.
Immediacy With Emotions
Writing emotions with immediacy is an often-overlooked aspect of writing in deep point of view. I wrote about the four layers of emotional storytelling here. We usually start with the first layer, the primary emotions. These are our instinctive emotional responses – the gut reaction, the spontaneous reaction, the survival instinct, etc. Often, these emotions are quick and visceral – meaning they have a physical component to them, not a thinking component.
You show this through physiological responses, physical reactions, etc. These are not emotions we think about before we decide if we’re feeling them or not. For example, we each feel fear uniquely. Show what fear feels like to that character. What terrifies one person, another won’t even pause over. Primary emotions require immediate action and prepare your body to act.
She scrolled through Facebook with her thumb. A shadow fell across the floor in front of her. A man punched the up button on the elevator and then stood nearly shoulder to shoulder with her. She inched away. What’s his deal? She looked up at his face, his hair parted with precision and the angles of his face sharp and chiseled.
He looked down on her and winked. Her belly clenched and she glanced around the lobby. Empty. She flicked her thumb and pulled up the emergency screen on her phone. Her thumb hesitated. He wore a nice suit, a real-leather-looking case in his hand that matched his shoes, and a gold watch. But the tightness in her belly spread up to her chest, cinching and squeezing. Her heart beat faster. The elevator dinged and she flinched. The doors slid open.
This is all primary emotions, right. Now, those emotions are going to force the character to do something, because this isn’t a comfortable feeling. She takes in a lot of information trying to decide if she’s safe or not. In deep point of view, we give the reader what evidence we have at hand and let them decide what emotion the character is feeling. This way, the reader knows WHY the character makes the decision they do. Make the reader lean in to understand, to engage with the emotions in the scene.
Primary emotions are immediate, raw, and unfiltered.
Perspective Is Determined Through Immediacy
In the example above, all of the information given to the reader is filtered through the character’s perspective. Her perspective is informed by what’s important to her RIGHT NOW.
There are some scenes where a character’s emotions dictate their plans for the future. Much of the time, what our characters take in, filter, judge, assess, etc. is put through a lens of what’s important to them right now. A teen boy can overlook quite a few things when he is hungry. All the sensory data intake is focused on finding food – smell, sight, past experience, taste, etc.
Think of the example above of the woman at the elevator, how would it change the character’s primary emotions if she’d been sexually assaulted previously? How would her thinking response change if she was on her way to work, to a job she couldn’t afford to lose, and she was a little late? How would her primary emotions react if she’d just read on her phone that the police were investigating a string of recent assaults in that neighborhood? Or she’d just had a friend who was assaulted?
Do you see how immediacy can shape a character’s perception of everything around them and shape their responses? It’s all interconnected.
Have a question about writing with immediacy? This is the third post in the deep POV FAQ series, have a question you’d like to see answered – post it below!