Michelle Massaro, the assistant editor of the popular literary website Clash of the Titles, shares a quick tutorial on Deep Point of View (or Deep POV). Find out what makes this style so appealing and how you can improve your writing by using it well!
Deep Point Of View is a writing style in high demand these days. Sensory-engaging technology raised the bar on what a consumer expects out of their favorite pastimes. In movies we've got digital 3D. For music, surround-sound. In video games, it's the motion-detection of the Wii. And for literary fiction we have Deep POV. But many authors aren't sure what it is or how to do it.
The reader wants to climb into a character's skin—tasting, feeling, hearing, smelling what they do. A great metaphor or simile won’t suffice. Deep POV isn't active voice or showing rather than telling.
Deep POV is a skill that must be learned, like anything else. But these four portable tips are a great place to start.
Tip #1: Delete the phrase "s/he saw"
Obviously not every use of the word saw (and its nieces and nephews: observed, noticed, etc.) will be slashed. But go through your manuscript looking for lines like these:
She saw the lights come on in the kitchen.
And change to:
The lights came on in the kitchen.
Just state the action. The "saw" phrases distance the reader. This often applies to other expressions as well, where you are describing the character interacting with the action rather than bringing the reader into it. She heard, she saw, sometimes even she wondered.
Tip #2: What would you say?
Use realistic internal dialogue. Figure out what you would say to yourself if you were experiencing the scene, then replace the pronouns with "s/he" (unless you're writing in first person, of course.)
Example: Someone points a gun at you. You wouldn't say in your own head "I'm terrified!" You'd simply think: "He's going to kill me!" or "I'm about to die!"
So She was terrified might become
He was going to kill her! or She was about to die!
Tip #3: Don't label emotions
This is classic show vs. tell but is vital to Deep POV. Delete from your mind the name we give to an emotion and force yourself to describe it. It's a lot like miming or playing that old party game Taboo. What physical movements would show the emotion without naming it?
He felt angry.
He narrowed his eyes, curled his lip, and restrained his tensed muscles from hurling his fist into the wall.
This is also true when describing the character's thoughts.
He realized he was in love with her.
He closed his eyes and heard her gentle voice calming him. Felt her in his arms. Her lavender scent made his head spin and filled him with the belief he could do anything if it meant being with her.
Tip #4: Physiological responses
Once you lay out some strong internal dialogue and remove emotion labels, follow up with physiological responses. Depending on the situation, these might be knees buckling, chest tightening, throat clamping, an adrenaline rush, goose bumps, nausea, dizziness, sweating, etc. Describe those. This will really pull the reader deep into the story, particularly in high-intensity moments.
So there you have it. Four concrete tips on Deep POV.
- Michelle Massaro, Clash of the Titles Assistant Editor