Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Deep Point of View

I have read several posts/blogs recently where someone says they have just ‘discovered’ Deep Point of View. One blogger even called it a ‘new’ type of Point of View. Other bloggers (writers) have said how they find it difficult to write in deep POV.
I’ve used deep POV ever since my first published novel in the 1960s. At the time I wasn’t aware it actually had a name. All I knew then was that Mills and Boon required their romance novels to be written from the heroine’s point of view (and only the heroine’s). In its most basic sense, this means out with phrases like, ‘She didn’t see the frown on his face as he turned to the door.’ If we’re in deep POV, we can only show what the heroine saw. If she didn’t see, how did she know he had a frown on his face? Similarly, out goes any head-hopping i.e. jumping to another person’s POV in the middle of a scene, and then back to the original person in the next sentence.
Deep POV requires us to describe scenes, events, conversations, thoughts, and emotions from one person’s point of view. Most times, it means we can omit the ‘filtering’ words like ‘he thought’, ‘he heard’, ‘he felt’, ‘he saw’ etc. Notice I don’t say ‘always’ because there are times when these words are necessary, usually for clarity. I admit I still use them too much, but am trying to limit them.
For me, deep POV means getting into the head of the person, and thinking, feeling, reacting, etc, as he or she would. This adds emotional depth, and also helps the reader to empathise with whatever the person is feeling. I’m not describing the person, I’m not even playacting the person, I am the person.
I’ve read many books where the author tells us what the character is thinking or feeling, rather than allowing us into the character’s mind. I’ve also read advice to use sensory perceptions to ‘deepen’ the deep POV but, as with most things, less is more. I recently read one book where the author was trying too hard not to use thought, felt, heard etc, and instead overloaded everything with too many unnecessary actions, sights, sounds, and smells, which proved very distracting!
Of course, deep POV doesn’t mean we have to stay in one person’s POV for the whole of the novel. Fashions have changed, and we don’t have to write always from heroine’s POV. Because of my early self-training, I do tend to favour the female POV, but I’ve learnt (or rather, am still learning) to switch into the hero’s POV. I don’t find that easy. Deciding when to switch is one problem for me,  but also a different POV (particularly a male’s) can mean the thoughts, and also the words and the phrasing, need to be different. Getting into the male mindset is much harder, but hopefully I’m improving with every new novel I write.
How easy or difficult do you find deep POV?


  1. Enjoyable post! I do my best writing in deep POV. I liken it to a biography versus an autobiography. Best luck.

  2. Good analogy, Rose - deep POV is similar to an autobiography even though it may be written in third person.

  3. I've improved my writing so I don't (often) head hop. :) I like deep POV, but there are occasions when I switch to omniscient. Sometimes it's necessary to move things along. However, those are the first places I go back to in order to see if I can use POV differently.

  4. I very rarely use omniscient because I'm invariably in one head or the other, even when moving things along. I think you're right to see if you can use the POV differently, so that things shown from a character's POV, rather than 'narrated' by the author.

  5. Yeah, for the moment, those are my place holders. A bit better than saying "ADD SCENE HERE" :)

  6. LOL, I do something similar if I get to a point where a description of a place is needed - 'Add details here'. The other night I wrote myself a note saying 'Add more ambience in restaurant'. I hate writing descriptions of places!

  7. Writing is always a work in progress; we grow with each book we write. most of us are determined to write the best story we are capable of delivering and getting in deep POV with a character is essential to that goal. I learned 2 things from two other writers that changed how I looked at deep POV. One author told me to write from the heart. If I care about that character deeply, the reader will, too. The other author advised me to think of emotion in a different way. For example, what does fear feel like, and I like to add, what does it look like.
    I really liked your blog, Paula. It's also a good reminder for us to keep working to improve.
    All the best to you.

  8. Sarah, you're absolutely right about growing and improving with each book we write. I cringe now when I look at the first book I had published in the 1960s! Wish I could rewrite it now, except the plot is too outdated.
    I agree about writing from the heart. The only way our readers are going to emphasise with out characters is if we emphasise with them too, and not just write 'about' them. I go through the whole gamut of emotions with my characters!

  9. Once I'm in the groove, I can usually get pretty deep into whichever character's head I'm supposed to be in at the moment.

    This is also getting easier with each book I write. I still do need to go back and take out some of those 'intruders', but I am definitely using them less and less even in first drafts.

  10. Debra, the more I write, the more I become aware of the intruders, and work to rephrase them.
    BTW I saw a great comment on Facebook this evening: "Writing fiction is not about transcribing the movie in your head. It's about becoming the character, and making the reader become them, too."
    That sums it up, doesn't it?

  11. Deep POV is something I am coming to understand and hopefully to get right as I write. These explanations are helpful, Paula. You are good at deep POV!

  12. A great post, Paula! Deep POV was something I came to understand after working with the same CPs and editors. They helped me to stop telling and show the characters internal thoughts and reactions. And they make me get rid of all of the filtering words. LOL

    Like I mentioned on FB, as authors, we are not supposed to dictate the movie in our heads, but to become our characters, and make the readers become them, too.

  13. Enjoyed your post, Paula. With each novel I've written, I'm hoping I keep improving my deep POV - whether it's all from the heroine or with sections from the hero. Getting rid of the unnecessary 'she thought' etc is the bit I can still improve!

  14. Paula--your post is a good reminder of what we should be doing. I learned about POV along the way, and found a small book about the topic. Amazingly, there are numerous variations on POV--8 or 10, and I even ran into an author once who claimed he could write and use all of these. Hogwash.
    Who would care?
    Fortunately, I naturally wrote using POV fairly well, although I didn't know it. An author friend pointed out areas in a few chapters where I had slipped into someone else's POV. I didn't get it. She told me, "One day you'll have an 'aha' moment and you'll understand. And I did.
    My first editor with The Wild Rose Press taught me so much--especially about POV and about omitting "she thought, she heard, etc."
    I keep a set of self-editing tips handy when I finish a ms and highlight all "thought, saw, heard, etc., and try to re-write all these sentences.
    But knowing too much often takes me out of someone else's story. I see slipping from one POV to another in the same paragraph, and it drives me crazy.
    A local writer acquaintance doesn't believe in POV, claiming it doesn't matter, and she writes, as she says, in Omniscient POV just to avoid the whole idea.
    I want to pull my hair out with frustration--but her books are her books.
    It's difficult to change another person's POV. Haha!

  15. Thanks, Ana. I think deep POV must be my 'natural' way of writing!

  16. Jessica, I loved your comment on FB about not transcribing the movie, but become the character. It is such a fantastic way to do explain deep POV!

  17. Rosemary, I'm trying to improve too, and working hard to avoid 'thought, saw, felt, heard' etc wherever possible!

  18. Celia, deep POV comes fairly naturally to me and, like you, I wince when I read a story where the author jumps from one POV to another and then back again.
    I always have an asterisk break in my ms. when I change from the heroine's to the hero's POV (and vice versa), and then I stay in that POV for at least a page, and sometimes much longer.