Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Deep POV

Paula thinks about Deep POV (Point of View)
I read recently that “Deep POV has been increasing in publishing for the last 20 years or so, and it’s getting more popular every year.” In fact, deep POV was being long before that. Even in the 1960s I was using deep POV, although I didn’t realize it at the time.
In its simplest form, Deep POV means that everything must be shown from the point of view of the character whose POV you are in at the time. This clicked with me when I read some advice (many, many years ago - can’t remember where now!). The example given was: “She didn’t see the flash of irritation in his eyes as she flounced out of the room,” and the comment was, “If she didn’t see it, you can’t say it.” That simple comment has stayed with me. Basically, it means that if you are in (e.g) the heroine’s POV, you can’t refer to anything she doesn’t experience for herself. Otherwise you, the author, are intruding, and telling the reader something your heroine doesn’t know about, which takes the reader away from identifying with her. The best word I have heard to describe Deep POV is ‘internalize’ so that everything comes from the character’s point of view.
However, Deep POV now goes further than that, and I must admit I tend to use a mix of limited and deep POV. In both cases, I stick to the ‘if she didn’t see it, you can’t say it’, but there is still a difference between limited and deep.
Here’s a (very simple) example:
Limited: She heard the door slam and wondered why he was so angry.
Deep: The door slammed. Why was he so angry?
Leave out ‘heard’ and ‘wondering’ and you’re no longer telling the reader what she heard and felt. Instead you’re allowing the reader to experience and question, just as the heroine is doing. This allows the reader to identify more closely with the character.
We are advised to avoid the ‘filter’ words like thought, felt, saw, heard – and I have been trying to avoid them in my writing, although I must confess there are times when I feel they are necessary. I take comfort in the fact that ‘avoid’ doesn’t mean ‘don’t use them at all’ but rather, ‘see if you can find a better way to express the thoughts or feelings.’
Sometimes I’ll use limited POV immediately followed by deep, e.g. “Luke pondered about the different signals she seemed to be sending out. Why was she friendly one minute, and hostile the next? And why did it matter anyway?” At least this avoids phrases like ‘he asked himself why’ or ‘he wondered why’.
I’m still getting to grips with the deepest of Deep POV, but, in the end, I believe that if you ‘deeply’ identify with your character while you are writing about him or her, then your readers will too.


  1. I call those words like "watched" "heard", etc. intruders, because they intrude into the POV and pull us out of the character's head.

    I am getting better at not using them when I write a first draft, but there always seem to be some that need to be removed during the editing process.

    1. I'm the same, Debra. I try not to use them, and remove most of them when editing, but it's a struggle at times. Often it's better to have an action of some kind, rather than any of the filter words,

  2. Thank goodness for first (and second) drafts. Getting the story down--with these intruder words (great ID tag for them, Debra!) --means I can edit then out later.
    I am not skilled at deep POV yet. I go back and layer it in.

    1. I still find myself using the intruder words, Ana - but open any HQ novel, and you'll find them there too! Better to concentrate on the basic aspect of everything coming from the character's POV than to worry too much about those intruders. That, at least, prevents you from 'omniscient' author intrusion, or worse still, head -hopping!

  3. A thought-provoking subject, Paula. I shall watch my writing with care in the future.

    1. Glad you found it interesting, Margaret :-) I still have to watch out for those 'intruder' words!