Updated: Apr 16, 2019
What 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:
First person: uses “I” to refer to the main character and is limited, i.e., 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.
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.
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.
Why 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
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.
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.