Friday, December 16, 2016

7 Tips for Writing in Deep POV

There's nothing better than getting lost in a good book. Except maybe finding true love. Or a nice MLT: mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky, I love that.


Getting lost in good book. That's something that readers love, and something that writers strive for. There are a lot of different ways an author can go about making sure that their reader gets lost in their story (lost in a good way...not a creepy Court-of-Owls-maze kind of way).

A personal favorite of mine is writing in Deep point of view (POV). This is the epitome of showing rather than telling. We see the story from inside of another character: we feel their emotions, see what they see, think what they think. It's as if we've crawled into the character's skin and are allowed to live there for a little while.
Hannah Heath: 7 Tips for Writing in Deep POV
It can sometimes be an exhausting form of writing, and it often takes a while to lock yourself into that mode. But once you get it? You're in. And ready to conquer the literary world.

Unfortunately, it can take a bit of work to get to that point. As my current WIP is written in Deep POV, I've found some ways to stay firmly in that perspective while writing. But first, let's explain what exactly deep POV is:

What is Deep POV?

Allow me to provide you with two excellent paragraphs. They will have the same high-stakes storyline, but one is in Deep POV and one is not. Read: 

Margaret clenched her fist, feeling her nails biting into her palm. Noticing the squirrel inching forward towards her MLT sandwich, she watched as its nose twitched, revealing its sharp yellow teeth. With a panicked jolt, she realized that it meant to steal her lunch. Looking around for a weapon, she saw a water bottle. Snatching it up and letting out an angry cry, she rushed forward to save her MLT. She would not let the squirrel win. 


Margaret's nails bit into her palm as her hand clenched into a fist. The squirrel inched towards her MLT sandwich, its nose twitching, yellow teeth bared. Her heart thumped, sending jolts of electricity through her limbs. This squirrel meant to steal her lunch. Snatching up a nearby water bottle, its metal cold and hard in her hand, she brandished it above her head, blood on fire as she screeched out a battle cry. This squirrel would not win. 

Which one do you think is a in Deep POV? Go on. Guess. 

That's right. The second one is in Deep POV. It shows us what Margaret is thinking and feeling by allowing us to experience her emotions.

That, essentially, is what Deep POV is. It takes the "show don't tell" rule almost as far is it can go, it removes the author from the entire picture, and limits the narrative to one character at a time. It is tight, concise, and emotional.

How Do You Write in Deep POV?

1. Show me! Don't listen to Loki, no matter how much he screams at you.
Do NOT tell me. Show me. Show me what the characters are going through: Let me feel the way their blood is pumping, show me how their hands are shaking, make me happy when they are happy and sad when they are sad. Showing should be in the here and now, exploring thoughts and actions and emotions and senses. No info dumping or long descriptions of people, places, or events.

2. Cut the thought and sense words. The what? Words like: Thought, realized, felt, saw, noticed. Also avoid naming emotions rather than describing them. Below, all of these no-no words are highlighted in red.

Margaret clenched her fist, feeling her nails biting into her palm. Noticing the squirrel inching forward towards her MLT sandwich, she watched as its nose twitched, revealing its sharp yellow teeth. With a panicked jolt, she realized that it meant to steal her lunch. Looking around for a weapon, she saw a water bottle. Snatching it up and letting out an angry cry, she rushed forward to save her MLT. She would not let the squirrel win. 

3. Get out of town. And stay out. You, as the author, should not be in the picture at all. Your reader should not notice you are there. All they need to see is the character. For example:

She would not let the squirrel win. vs This squirrel would not win. 

The former sentence is not in Deep POV because I, the author, am telling you what the character is thinking. The latter sentence is all coming from Margaret, the character. That's what you're going for. You'll also want to avoid dialogue tags such as: said, asked, whispered, screamed. Instead, try dialogue with no tags at all (this usually only works when there are only two characters present) or with attributive tags (Her lips curled. "I despise squirrels.")

4. Avoid the passive voice. Don't know what this is? I can explain it fairly simply. And I can do it while remaining in keeping with my evil squirrel theme (I'm in too deep to stop now. Send help).
I really don't like this movie. But the picture fit, so there you have it.
If you can put "by squirrels" at the end of your sentence and it still makes sense: It's passive.

A decision was squirrels. My MLT sandwich is being squirrels. I will be squirrels. 

Got it? Don't use a passive voice. It will pull people out of your story.

5. Be careful with description. A good way to make readers remember that they're reading a story is to use too many words or to take a moment to describe something out of the ordinary. For example: in Deep POV, you can only describe things that your character would notice in the exact way that that character would notice it. Your mercenary may not notice the stylish heels that lady has on, but he may notice how un-calloused her hands are. Your maiden warrior may notice the heels, but only how they make the lady teeter, not how stylish they are.

6. Keep it personal and vivid. Everything is up close and in-your-face. You want your readers to feel as connected as possible to your character and his/her emotions. So keep everything tight and tense and real. If you as the writer do not feel emotion as your write from a Deep POV (or read over the scenes), then you probably aren't going deep enough.

7. Use anchor words, images, or songs. It can be hard to keep from slipping out of deep POV....Or, if you are writing from more than one character's POV, it can be hard to keep each narrative unique to the character. That's what anchors are for: words, images (via Pinterest or a cork board on your wall), songs, or colors that convey the emotions, thoughts, and actions that are essential to your POV character. If you find yourself getting mixed up or unable to fully lock into their minds, go through these. It will help you orient yourself and allows you to fully submerge into their POV. This then allows you to write from inside of them, rather than to write as the author (thus breaking tip #3).

Writing in Deep POV requires a deep understanding of your characters, as well as the ability to get inside of your character's head. It takes time and practice, but it gets easier the more you do it. So if you find yourself slipping up at first and reverting to an omniscient or shallow narrative: Don't worry. It will come. Just keep trying.

Do you write in Deep POV? What are some of your favorite books that are written in a Deep POV? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Related articles:
7 Tips for Writing Emotion Into Your Story
7 Tips for Choosing Your Character's Appearance
8 Tips to Improve Your Descriptive Writing

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  1. I really enjoy writing in Deep POV. Of all the books that I've read, the most recent that really stand out are A World Without You by Beth Revis and Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton. Hamilton especially has a great way of showing the characters' feelings without telling us what they are. Thanks for another great post!

    1. I've been really wanting to read Rebel of the Sands. Mostly because the cover is gorgeous. =D But now I want to even more for the Deep POV. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Hannah, I love your squirrelly perspective on passive voice! Thanks for sharing your insights that also make me smile.

    1. Lol! Thanks! I was going to use "by zombies," but that's boring. =) Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This is fantastic! (love the squirrels too xD)

    1. Lol! Thank you! I wrote this post when I was very tired. I thought the squirrels might have been a questionable choice, but I'm happy to see that you liked them. =D

  5. My grandmother has a vendetta against squirrels, so this made me laugh. (And for the life of me I couldn't spell squirrels until I used spell check.

    I love writing in Deep POV. I only write in deep POV. It's actually hard for me not to. :)

    Favorite book in deep POV: the In Between series by Jenny B. Jones.

    1. I think I'd like your grandmother. I can't stand squirrels, either. =D Unless they're in Squirrel Girl comics, then that's okay.

      I've never read the In Between series, but I'll check it out! Thanks.

  6. This was a really interesting article! I think Deep POV is what I do....somewhat. I also combine it with some snarky Maggie Stiefvater-ish, author-dictated's weird.

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

    1. I think several authors do that. And Maggie Stiefvater does Deep POV in The Scorpio Races (possibly in her others, though I haven't read them). It sounds like a fun style you have going on! Keep at it!

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  8. Hi, my name is Lada. I really love your blog! Your articles are funny and helpful, thank you! I would really like to know your opinion on how to handle time skips? How to treat this matter? Let's say the plot is in two POV. One of them is pressumed dead, but is actually living - hidden. Nothing major happens for two years until they meet again by a chance - but how to treat those two years? What to mention and what to skip, if you are attempting to write in a deep POV? How not to sound boring while summarizing those years? Because even if that time isn't that important to a plot, those two will still change, right? I'm sorry that my question is so long, but I would like to see even a whole article about this from you :D

    1. Hi Lada! Great question! I have used time skips frequently in my writing, so here are a few tips that I've found to be helpful:

      1) Ask yourself: "Is this scene necessary to the plot?" If not, that is a section that you can cut out.

      2) Ask yourself: "Is this scene necessary for character development?" If not, skip over this section. If it is, then either keep it in or find a way to add it in after the time skip is largely over.

      As you said, while that time may not be crucial to the plot, those missing two years will still change the characters. But, often there are ways to work explanations for the changes into the current plot using flashbacks, dialogue, etc. OR you could quickly summarizing the important changes that took place during those years by writing a montage that includes only scenes necessary for character development.

      I hope this helps you. This was an excellent question, and I'm certainly adding it to my list of topics that I will do posts on in the future. Thank you for the great comment!

  9. Enjoyed the post.
    Learning to write deep POV reminds me of being a kid, trying to learn guitar. (I'd listen to a song and try to play along. Turned off the song and immediately forgot how the song went.)
    So, I'm out reading everything I can find about D-POV
    Yes, this Comment is from the future! (lol... well, it is until you read it.)


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