The Power of Deep POV

The Power of Deep POV

Point of ViewPeople often speak about point of view in fiction. Omniscient, first, second, and third. We’ll talk about each briefly, then get into the meat of the matter.

Omniscient Point of View

This POV has fallen out of favor with the modern reader. Think “God” when you think of this POV. This is the voice that knows everything—every character’s thought. Every motive, every action. All the evidence, all the results. It kind of takes all the fun out of reading the story. There are benefits to it, sure, but more often than not, writers use it because it lets them be lazy. It’s a lot easier to switch to Larry’s POV to show he’s injured at the bottom of the Grand Canyon than to have Kathy figure it out from her kitchen in Hoboken.

First Person POV

This is the “I” point of view. The story is told from one person—me. This narrator can be reliable or not, that’s up to the author. But the pronouns are always first person. Be careful not to overuse them. While many people will argue that this is the easiest form of fiction to write (because this is how we naturally think), it’s also the easiest to abuse. These pronouns pop up like weeds because we can’t always easily substitute proper nouns in their place.

Second Person POV

This is the “you” point of view, most often seen in instruction manuals. These days, video games and adventure books use it. It doesn’t lend its form easily to traditional fiction, but it has been adapted by some of the masters in powerful ways—Tolstoy, Atwood, Faulkner, Camus, Hawthorne, McInerney, Calvino… the list is longer than you would think. This is a difficult form to pull off, but one worth exploring as a fun and challenging exercise.

Third Person POV

This is the “him/her/them” or the “he/she/they” point of view. There are two sub-types of this POV:

Third Person Limited

This is where you follow only one character throughout the story. You can only know/see/think/feel/experience the storyworld through that character.

Third Person Multiple

This is where you follow more than one character throughout the story. It is best to limit yourself to maybe two main characters (say a male and female romantic couple) or in a mystery or thriller or horror, perhaps no more than five people, just a core group. If your cast gets too big, it can get difficult for you as the author to make their voices all different. You also don’t want to make it difficult for your readers to keep track of all the characters.


Okay, you’ve chosen your point of view. You’ve outlined your plot, created your character bible. You know what you want to say and you’re ready to say it. Now what?

Time to write. Right? Right.

It doesn’t matter what point of view you’ve chosen, what matters is how deep you get into it.

The whole benefit to deep POV is that the author becomes the character, and consequently, the reader becomes the character. In order to do that, the ubiquitous “show, don’t tell” comes into play.

Let’s look at the following examples. (Please note, these examples will be simple for effect.)

First Person POV

Original:

I felt my heart race.

Revised:

My heart raced.

Third Person POV

Original:

She felt her heart race.

Revised:

Her heart raced.

The point of these simple sentences is to show you the difference a few simple words can make. In the originals, the use of the word “felt” lends a distance to the sentences. It brings the reader out of the head of the character, keeps them from experiencing the storyworld first-hand. Instead of the reader’s heart racing right along with the character, the reader is pushed out of the story and told that the character’s heart raced. The character doesn’t even get to experience it real-time.

In the revised sentences, the removal of the barrier word brings the reader back into the story. Now we’re showing, not telling, so we’re experiencing everything in the moment. The storyworld is opened to the reader. There is no more disconnect, no more separation between reader and character.

So you see, deep POV can make all the difference between a reader feeling like she’s being told a story and feeling like she’s living your story. Take the time to gouge out those extra fluff words that are doing nothing but creating barriers, and you’ll be crafting a tighter, stronger piece of fiction.

 

 

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