DOs and DON’Ts of Deep POV

DOs and DON'Ts of Deep POV | Jeni ChappelleWhat deep POV is

Deep POV (Point of View) has been increasing in publishing for the last 20 years or so, and it’s getting more popular every year. Sometimes it’s also called tight or close POV. If you’ve ever gotten feedback from an editor or agent, chances are they said something about deep POV. But it’s a tricky concept for many writers. I’ll admit, it took me a while to wrap my head around it. So just what the heck even is deep POV, and why does it matter?

A quick reminder

There are three basic POVs:

  1. First person: uses “I” to refer to the main character and is limited, ie, the narrator can’t disclose anything the main character doesn’t know. So other characters’ thoughts and feelings and events that happen outside the POV character’s presence are out.
  2. Second person: uses “you,” as in “You head down the shadowy hallway and see a dim light at the other end.” This one is also limited, but it’s barely used, as it’s really hard to do well and even harder to read.
  3. Third person: uses the main character’s name or “he/she.” Can be limited or omniscient—omniscient means the narrator knows everything everyone is doing, thinking, and feeling at all times.

Since second person is so rarely used, I’m just going to talk about first and third person here.

Deep POV refers to that limited perspective, and it can be used in any limited POV. But it takes it a step further than traditional limited viewpoint. Deep POV seeks to mimic the way we perceive situations in real life. With a deep POV, the narrator only tells things that the POV character is consciously aware of. Here’s an example:

Traditional limited: Sharon heard the bell ring and wondered what caused it.

Deep POV: A bell rang. What was going on?

In the deep POV, the words heard and wondered have been removed. Why?

In real life, we don’t intentionally hear sounds and rarely recognize that we intentionally wonder about things. We are much more likely to simply acknowledge the sound for what it is (“Oh! A bell”) and make a judgment about it.

DOs and DON'Ts of Deep POV | Jeni ChappelleWhy Use Deep POV

Deep POV gives the reader a close connection to the protagonist. It adds emotional depth and makes the author pretty much completely disappear in the story. It provides a more interactive experience of the story for your readers, and that sells books.

How to try deep POV

As I’ve said here before, there’s no one right way to tell a story. Genre, personal preference, and how much needs to happen away from your main character are some of the considerations that have to go into the decision about which POV is best for your novel.

Whether you’re starting a brand new story or revising a completed manuscript, here are some things to keep in mind when deepening your POV.

DOs and DON’Ts of deep POV

DO:
  • Know your POV character very well and give her a strong voice—sass, a dialect, exclamations (ex: No way! Shut the front door! Holy plastic surgery!), figures of speech, swearing, and personal interests and hobbies that she relates things to.
  • Refer to the POV character for intentional actions (She ran across the hall to find him)
  • Use pointing words, like this/that, here/there, and soon/later.
  • Internalize everything. All details and descriptions come from the POV character’s observations.
  • Choose verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and comparisons that show judgment.
  • Use “a” to show something that has just been noticed and “the” to show stuff the POV character already knew about.
  • Limit dialogue tags.
DON’T:
  • Refer to the POV character directly when showing judgments, feelings, or observations.
  • Filter the POV character’s experience. Some examples of filtering words are: thought, felt, saw, heard, realize, watch.
  • Use passive voice. The POV character is in the subject of the sentence or clause whenever possible.

 

What do you think of deep POV? Leave a comment below or tweet me @jenichappelle.

Jeni Chappelle

Jeni Chappelle is a freelance editor. She considers herself a hobbit lives in an itty-bitty town a few miles from Charlotte, NC with her family and a menagerie. Jeni is a participating editor in #P2P, #RevPit and #ShoreIndie. You can visit her blog and learn more about her editing at www.jenichappelle.com.

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22 comments on “DOs and DON’Ts of Deep POV
  1. Joyce Lavene says:

    Great blog today! Thanks for insights.

  2. Maria Rich says:

    I have only recently realized that my novel is in deep POV. I will have to check it for your Do’s and Don’ts!
    Thank you for the great read.
    ~Mia

  3. I’ve been doing this for years, and I simply thought of it as good writing, not “deep PoV.” 🙂

    • That’s great, Theo! I know many writers who write this way by default. It just doesn’t come as naturally to some, and, of course, it doesn’t work for all writers/stories/characters.

  4. Pamela says:

    You probably want to limit the amount of characters with this type of POV. Doesn’t it get confusing?

  5. Cynthia says:

    I’m not a writer but I am an avid reader and I found this very informative and interesting!!

  6. Peggy says:

    Is deep pov the same as free indirect style?

    • It’s similar, Peggy. Free indirect is more about thoughts, and deep POV focuses more on feelings and sensory experience. I’m glad you asked that – I’ve never thought about the differences before.

  7. Great article Jeni. I’m going to honest and say that I didn’t even know what Deep POV was until now. Thank you! I love it when I learn something new. 😉

  8. Cara Hall says:

    What advice do you have for doing deep POV when you are writing from multiple viewpoints? Some chapters are for him and some for her – it’s a romance novel. Have you seen this work successfully?

    • Cara, this can absolutely be done! The biggest part of doing multiple POVs is that you have to make sure the characters have really distinct voices and personalities. Make sure it’s very clear whose head you’re in when you switch POV, and don’t switch POV too frequently. Hope this helps! Feel free to shoot me an email for help with your particular situation.

  9. Terrific practical break-down of this thorny, difficult topic. When it comes to POV, I seldom use omniscient, as that tends to bring me out too much at the cost of my characters. Whether it amounts to deep POV or not, I much rather prefer staying in my character’s skin throughout a scene. For me this is one powerful plus fiction has over other story-telling mediums, for there “in the deep” we can fully appreciate a person’s inner struggle and how their psyche drives how they act outward.

  10. Sue Coletta says:

    I wrote the first two books in a series in first person and used deep POV. I like how it allows you to really become the character. Great post!

  11. J C Harroway says:

    Thanks for the tips. Very useful and well explained. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

  12. Meagan Yielder says:

    Thank you for this explanation – it makes the whole idea of Deep POV so much more understandable. I’ve been trying to incorporate it into my own writing, but I knew I was missing the mark somewhere. Now I know exactly how to fix it.

  13. Melissa Schultz says:

    Thank you! I have struggled to truly understand POV until today. It is very much appreciated!

  14. Nadiah Alwi says:

    I never thought about it before. It definitely can help me write better. Thanks. 🙂

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