Evelyn Berry is a life-long lover of science fiction romance and appreciates a good discussion on writing craft. Thus, a discussion on POV was born. For more helpful tips or funny life lessons, find her on Twitter: @eviebromance or Facebook.
What is Deep Point of View (POV)? Deep POV has been described as close third person. Orson Scott Card[i] describes deep POV as, “intense ‘hot’ narration; no other narrative strategy keeps the reader so closely involved with the character and the story.” I like Gerke’s[ii] description of POV as a reader sitting in a submarine with no windows. The world outside the submarine is your story. The only way the reader can experience that world is by looking through a periscope. If we take this analogy further, writers can zoom in and zoom out of a scene allowing the reader to focus in on the most important person/object.
Card goes on to mention that no one level of POV penetration will be right for the entire story. This makes sense to me – you can’t zoom in to any one person or thing for too long. Nelson calls this ‘narrative distance’[iii]. YOU, as the author, need to decide when to zoom in and when to zoom out. Here are a few tips to get you to zoom in.
1) Describe things/people the way the POV character would describe them. Our current experiences are colored by a myriad of previous experiences and how we’ve been socialized. E.g., Darth Vader’s experience losing his mother made him vulnerable (and unstable) to the idea that he would lose Padme in childbirth.
2) Remove filter words, such as: feel/felt, know/knew, wondered, realized, speculated, saw, wished…etc. When these filter words are coupled with pronouns (see #3), it creates narrative distance. Readers have zoomed out so fast they got whiplash.
3) Review use of personal pronouns – pronouns remind the reader that they are not the hero/heroine and pulls them out of the story.
a. Use personal pronouns during action sentences. E.g., “She slung her duffel bag over her shoulder.”
b. Try not to use personal pronouns during perception sentences. If your character likes/dislikes something/someone, pronouns can filter this perception. E.g., “She thought Dr. Brown was wasting his time questioning Sephorum.” By getting rid of ‘She thought’, it removes the filter word and pronoun.
c. Describe the things how the POV character would describe them. Use the character’s five senses – sounds, smells, touch, taste, and sight.
4) It bears repeating: Show, don’t tell. - Instead of saying, “She was scared.” Describe the physical, internal sensations, and mental reactions. I would recommend “The Emotional Thesaurus: A writer’s guide to character expression[iv].” Instead of “She was scared.” You could write, “She shook uncontrollably.” Or “She gripped the handle until her nails bit into her palms.” *ouch* That description made me wince – Good! That means the reader is, too.
5) Evidential and Modal Verbs – what are these? They’re words like: Can, could, might, shall, should, will, etc. These words help the hero/heroine describe their internal judgment as they evaluate a situation and express their opinion.
a. The doctor could yell until her voice gave out, Daphne wasn’t staying in the hospital one more hour.
When I revise my manuscripts, I look for places where I could get deeper POV.
Does this mean that every character needs deep POV? No. And not all scenes should be deep POV. I have to remind myself to zoom in and zoom out with supreme judgment.