As a writer who has spent the last few years drafting a four book YA series, I thought I’d gained a good grasp on how to write.
I’d ironed out the head hopping that embarrassingly featured way too much in my first drafts. I’d mastered ending each chapter with a cliffhanger. And I’d worked out writing from a multi-character point of view (POV) was my thing.
So earlier this year when I received another publisher rejection for book one, I realized maybe nailing just those things wasn’t all I had to do.
Knowing my submission draft needed work but not knowing what kind (thank you generic rejection letter that gave no feedback, you were so helpful!), I turned to my trusty team of talented beta readers.
Through their feedback, I learned my book was missing two important things.
1) A proper balance of showing and not telling.
2) Deep POV.
While you’ll have to visit my blog post, How To Master Show, Don’t Tell, to read my tips on showing and not telling, you can find out all about Deep POV right here. It includes real examples from my draft—which I’m hoping you won’t judge too harshly.
If you’ve never heard of Deep POV, you’re not alone. Or, if like me, you heard about it and brushed it off because “I write in third person omnipresent and don’t need to worry about other POVs”, this is what you need to know…
Deep point of view is when you eliminate distance between the reader and your characters. It overlaps with the good old Show, Don’t Tell rule and creates depth for your characters, and a connection with your reader.
How To Write In Deep POV
Watch Your Filter Words
I’m not suggesting you delete these words completely, because sometimes they have a place, but if you can watch your use, not only will you strengthen your writing, but you’ll delve into Deep POV.
Without Deep POV: Josh saw Grace in that area, it wasn’t hard to miss her. She was simply an older version of Sarah, in the same tall, lean frame and with the same long, straight blond hair.
With Deep POV: Grace was in that area and was hard to miss. She was an older version of Sarah, with the same tall, lean frame and long, straight blond hair.
Using the filter word “saw” sets the sentence up to be “told” to the reader through the eyes of the narrator. When you remove it and rewrite the same scene from the eyes of the character, there’s automatically a sense of “voice”. The description of Grace also feels as if it comes from Josh’s opinion of her rather than the “narrator” describing her.
Write From The Character’s Perspective, Not The Narrator’s
As we touched on above, writing your story from the character’s perspective as much as possible is what Deep POV is all about. When you reduce the narrator (yes, even when writing in third person omnipresent!) you create a three-dimensional character and get the reader invested. They will care about what is happening to your characters because they’ll feel everything right along with them, not just observe it.
Narrator: The dark clouds swelled with torrents of water and obstructed Eve’s limited view further.
Character: Dark clouds swelled with torrents of water, obstructing Eve’s view.
It’s just another simple change, yet now the same sentence reads if it’s happening/coming from the character rather than a distant narrator. Going for Deep POV also cuts down on the unnecessary words in the original sentence.
Use Internal Thoughts/Dialogue/Observations
Internalizing is something I’ve only just started doing, and it has made a huge difference to the strength of my story.
Internalizing observations is writing what the character is seeing when they walk into a room, not a list of what is in the room (although there’s always a place for that via creative descriptive passages). This also opens you up to using internal thoughts and dialogue, which is a great way for the reader to get to know the character on a personal level.
You’ll need to know all of your characters well to pull it off. What one character thinks about a situation will be different to another and your Deep POV needs to reflect that.
Without Internal Thoughts: Out in the hallway, Josh found blue-gray walls and little else. Even the nurses’ station across from his room was empty.
With Internal Thoughts: Out in the hallway, he found institutional blue-gray walls and little else. Why was it so silent? His gooseflesh returned, but not because of the cold. He rubbed his arms. Was something watching him? He must be paranoid. There was no one around. Even the nurses’ station was empty.
When it comes to a character’s observations for themselves, instead of writing “Her cheeks flushed pink” try “The heat rose through her cheeks”, taking you right inside the character’s POV/body.
If you don’t have it already or have never heard of it, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is a great resource for this. It includes handy lists for writing character feelings through their thoughts, body language, and visceral reactions.
Stick To The Character’s Knowledge
The quickest way to take yourself out of Deep POV is throwing in a sentence containing knowledge the POV character doesn’t know. Stick to what they feel/see/can learn for themselves.
Use Fewer Dialogue Tags And More Actions Beats
Some writers like to use no dialogue tags at all (which I find confusing). Others stick to “said”. Some vary by using “gasped” etc. Whatever your dialogue preferences, when it comes to Deep POV, less is more.
If you want to go full Deep POV, try to only use dialogue tags for clarity or when there are multiple characters in a scene, and swap them out for action beats/internal voice instead. As I’ve done here…
“Are you okay?” The white T-shirt the girl had on was stained too. Black ash spoiled her appearance.
She shifted her dark eyes to his face. “I could ask you the same thing.” She tilted her chin at his shirt.
“It’s not my blood.”
The girl’s gaze drifted back to his shoulder. “Are you sure?”
He wasn’t. “I’m sick.”
“You’re not sick.”
“I’m not?” Why was he here then? In that bed, in that room? What kind of hospital was this?
Write In An Active Voice
An all-around great writing tip, and something you should aim for anyway, is writing in an active voice. When it comes to Deep POV, active voice puts the reader right into the action. And when you combine that with what the characters’ feel and think, you’ve not only mastered Deep POV but should also find you’ve got an awesome book on your hands.
As you can see, by eliminating filter words, writing from the perspective of your characters and making sure to include their thoughts and physical reactions, as well as active voice, action beats and character knowledge, you can easily nail a deeper point of view when you write.
While writing in Deep POV is not for every writer or story, if you can get it to work for yours, you’ll be glad you did. I know I sure am. And hopefully, my next round of submissions will reflect that, or at the very least, gain a rejection slip with some feedback I can use.
— K.M. Allan