Point of View. It's one of the hardest things for a writer to master. Even after one finished novel, one partial, and countless short stories, meditations, and essays, I still struggle with it at times.
You're probably wondering why there's a photograph of a spyglass at the top of the page. I'll get to that soon. I promise! But first, let's talk about why point of view is so important and how Deep POV is so effective in writing.
When I sent out my first novel, "Sea Horses," to have it professionally edited, it looked like an autopsy when my editor sent it back to me. I was so discouraged. But after wading through all the red ink and slashes, I realized the majority of the markups had to do with POV. She had many positive things to say about my dialog, my descriptive prose, and my plot and character-building. "But you really need to work on POV," she wrote.
She was right. I head-hopped several times throughout my manuscript, even when I thought I wasn't, and I went back and forth between Deep and Omniscient POV. I took her advice, studied everything I could get my hands on about Deep POV, and slashed away at my pages. My writing hasn't been the same since. The end result is a story immensely better than the original. After receiving only rejections before, I've now had three requests from agents for a partial, and two requests for a full. In the world of agents and publishing, that's huge. And I truly believe it's because I committed myself to learning the art of Deep POV.
So what exactly is Deep Point of View?
Think back to your favorite books. Thumb through your library and make a mental list of the "keepers," those page-worn titles you've read multiple times and would never think of tossing out or giving away. Chances are, those books are written in Deep POV.
As writers, we want our readers engaged in what is known as "suspension of disbelief." Think about that phrase for a moment. Have you ever been so engulfed in a book that you missed your stop on the subway? Or didn't hear the receptionist call your name at the doctor's office because you were too busy turning the pages of that new suspense novel? What we're reading isn't real, of course. But it seems real!
We see that character in the middle of the night as she stands just inside the threshold of the old abandoned house. We smell the musty, moldy air. We hear the creak of the door as it closes behind her. We feel her heart beat faster and her arms break out in gooseflesh. That's where we want our readers to be!
In short, Deep POV rivets us to a story's main character(s) in such a way that we're melded to their psyche, living the story line by line and scene by scene. And that is the kind of writing that produces unforgettable characters and stories in the minds of your readers and keeps them coming back for more!
So... now that I have your attention, let's look at how to achieve that goal.
Tips on Deep Point of View and How to Achieve It
1. First, Second, or Third Person?
Quick review of the different narratives in writing and how they relate to Deep POV:
- First Person - The viewpoint character in this style is "I." That means the story is told from the viewpoint of one character throughout the piece. It sometimes has a "journal" type feel to it, which can be very effective in bonding the reader to the character. But it can be limiting, as the reader experiences the story through one set of eyes only. Some famous titles written in first person include "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain; "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger; "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker; and "The Prince of Tides" by Pat Conroy.
- Second Person - The viewpoint here is "you." This style is awkward and is rarely used in fiction. You mostly find this style in non-fiction, such as teaching manuals and self-help books.
- Third Person - This is the most common style used for storytelling. The viewpoint character is "he" or "she." There are three ways to present this view:
~ Third Person, Single POV - Much like first person, this choice requires the writer to stay inside one character for the entire story. This creates an excellent opportunity for Deep POV. The drawback, as with first person, is that any events that occur outside the main character's POV must be either told to him by another character or discovered as the story goes along.
~ Third Person, Multiple POV - In this method, the writer puts the reader into the heads of two or more characters throughout the novel or story. For novice writers, this is where "head-hopping" can occur, the bane and derailment of any story. In head-hopping, the writer presents the thoughts and perceptions of more than one character in a single scene. This is the equivalent of a ping pong ball going off inside the reader's head. When we jump back and forth from character to character, it confuses the reader and makes it difficult to bond with any of them. Yes, there are some best-selling authors who head-hop and get away with it. But as writers, this isn't a practice we should aspire to.
~ Third Person, Omniscient POV - The viewpoint character in this POV is an omniscient narrator who tells their story from an all-knowing position. The narrator himself becomes an unseen character, and therefore Deep POV is not possible with this particular style. This style works best with sweeping epics such as J. R. R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, where the cast of characters is quite large and the length of the story is considerable.
Your first task is to decide which narrative works for you and your story. Not all narrative styles work for every storyline. But for Deep POV, it's best to choose either First Person or Third Person (Single or Multiple POV).
Coming Soon: What Deep POV is and what it isn't.