All too often, and not only when critiquing a manuscript or editing for one of my clients but also when I’m simply reading a book for pleasure, I find myself craving more. I want to connect with the characters intimately and be pulled inside the book. And don’t all readers want that when reading fiction?
Just ask yourself, why do we read fiction in the first place? Why do we crave it? And why do we writers ache to create it?
Because we want to be entertained. Sometimes we simply need an escape, or maybe we want to explore new worlds and experience new things. And I’m willing to bet that, like me, you want to live the thrill of that adventure right along with the characters inside that book.
To accomplish this feat, the author needs to allow the reader to do more than just see through the eyes of the point of view character and not just experience the action right along with that character, both of which are important for sure. But even more, the author must let the reader into the heart and mind of the point of view character allowing the reader to know what that character is thinking and feeling, what the character’s intentions, desires, dreams and goals are.
So, how do we accomplish this tremendous feat? Well, with deep POV, of course.
Although not used nearly as often as it should be, deep POV has made its mark on fiction and become strongly desired by readers more and more since the turn of the last century. And while quite a few new authors today are exploring the realm of first-person POV, many of us writers still relish the art of the traditional third-person perspective. What first-person POV accomplishes—if done right—through its narration, deep POV can also accomplish through third-person narration with just as much success.
As described above, deep POV takes that third-person perspective much farther than simply seeing and experiencing the point of view character’s actions. It allows the reader to know and experience all the rest as well. When you use deep POV, you allow the reader to not just see what the point of view character sees and what is happening around them, but also what that character is thinking and feeling at that moment.
By using deep POV, the writer brings the reader inside the point of view character’s head and heart without bogging the story down with those telling/passive phrases that intrude into the fiction like she thought, she wondered, she realized, and so on. The reader gets to see and feel what the POV character is experiencing not just through dialogue but through narration as well and to see and experience that character’s past through their memories and know what is in that character’s heart and mind as the events unfold.
Imagine allowing your readers to experience the story from the inside out rather than telling them the story from the outside looking in as authors so often do. This is the advantage deep POV gives you. With the use of deep POV, your narration shares the thoughts, feelings and experiences of the POV character through their eyes, their heart, and their mind.
Now, if you’re still not seeing the advantage of deep POV, think of this. An omniscient narrator is the most undesirable narrator to readers, and do you know why? Because an omniscient narrator is viewing the action from afar—from the outside looking in, as I just mentioned.
Such a narrator comes across as cold and indifferent. Although they see what every character sees and supposedly know what every character knows, they don’t feel or experience any of it. And consequently, neither does the reader. Without the use of deep POV, the author maintains a barrier between the reader and the POV character and an omniscient narrator widens that barrier ten-fold.
Further, many times, while reading a story, I get the impression the author has forgotten that while in narration, they are still within the POV character’s perspective. And I get this impression because, so often, the author fails to take advantage of that deep POV. The author either forgets or doesn’t understand that even the narration should be in the POV character’s voice.
Every word should come from that character’s relationship with the scene and the circumstances, as well as with the other characters. When in deep POV, an author should be sure to incorporate words and phrases particular to the POV character, and descriptions should reflect that character’s personality and emotions.
For instance, while in deep POV, the POV character would not refer to a sibling as her sister, Barbara, but rather Barbara, or their parent as her mother, Suzanne, but Mom. Think personal rather than impersonal. Use words the POV character knows will cause a reaction with the other characters in the scene, bringing out their emotions as well. This is a great way to stir up that conflict, again bringing the reader closer to the action.
So take advantage of the narration by using it to bring out your POV character’s true personality and motives, Again, their thoughts, their feelings, their intentions, desires, dreams and goals. And if there are certain things you don’t want to give away to the reader just yet, don’t fret because deep POV can serve you even better in this regard. The more you use deep POV, allowing the reader to believe they are getting to know that character intimately, the bigger that surprise twist will be when you’ve managed to withhold certain truths without the reader realizing you were holding back at all.
Another advantage of using deep POV rather than the traditional third-person subjective is that it allows an author to cut those telling/passive words from their word count and keep the intensity of the story high. There is no need to tell the reader what the character thinks, or hopes, or sees, or feels because the reader understands that those thoughts and hopes and visions and feelings belong to the POV character. And better yet, the reader feels the urgency of the moment more closely and is brought deeper into the story. That barrier between the emotions and experiences of the POV character and the story that I mentioned earlier is removed, keeping the reader fully engaged and bringing them closer.
As a word of caution, keep in mind that staying in deep POV—inside your POV character’s head and heart—for an extended length of time without a break can be risky. Particularly if you have only one POV character throughout. You don’t want your readers to begin feeling claustrophobic or edgy. So be sure to allow for those breaks and step away at those times when the scene draws back as well and what’s happening isn’t quite so personal to the character.
So, give your readers more and bring them right inside your book by taking advantage of this awesome perspective.
And WRITE ON, fellow authors!