Ah, deep POV. It’s something I’d never heard of when I started writing and was something I wasn’t even doing a year ago.
As with any new skill learned, writing in deep POV isn’t automatic for me yet and it gets drowned in my natural writing tendencies to clutter my scenes in stage directing, skip the showing for telling, and forget that deep POV exists. That’s the way I write my first few drafts and what I need to edit out in later drafts.
If you find yourself in the same boat, trying to hunt down all the places you’ve slipped out of deep POV, these tips may help you get back into that writing sweet spot.
Check Your Info Dumps
Info dumping is always at the top of the “don’t” list in the art of writing. The reason being that it’s so easy to do.
If you want the reader to know how a world works, how characters know each other, the layout of the room they’re in, etc, it’s easy to just dump it in a paragraph or write the setting likes it’s a guided tour—i.e. “The right side of the room was filled with bookshelves, the left half, a couch and a brown coffee table with a lamp”.
Instead, check that you’ve worked those details into your story through the deep POV of your characters. Is the MC staring at a generic list of furniture (couch, coffee table, armchair), searching for their car keys? Or are they pawing through crumb-filled couch cushions, coating the tips of their fingers in who knows what on the hunt for the missing keys?
Go deeper with the info you’re delivering to the reader, make sure you’re giving it to them from a personal, physical perspective (where it suits the story) instead of just info-dumping. That way you know you’re well and truly in the spotlight of deep POV.
Your Character Is A Sudden Know-It-All
When you’re writing deep POV, you’re in the character’s head. Everything that’s happening around them and to them should come from their viewpoint. If suddenly your character knows something they shouldn’t or couldn’t because they weren’t there experiencing it and/or told about it, you’ve slipped out of deep POV.
Comb through each chapter and look at the events your character has gone through and make sure you haven’t accidentally given them knowledge they shouldn’t have. It’s easy to do when you’re the author and know every plot point inside out, but be thorough. Work out who knows what, and make sure it all matches up to keep your deep POV intact.
There’s No Feeling
The beauty of deep POV is the connection it creates between the character and the reader. It allows the reader to relate to the people on the page. If you can’t feel that emotion when you’re writing, editing, or reading your work, chances are you’ve missed the mark.
As the writer, you’re more emotionally attached to your characters than anyone else. If you don’t think you can judge this, have a beta reader, or someone you trust, look at the sections where the feelings are on show. If they’re getting nothing, rework those sections and slip back into the land of deep POV.
You’re Not On Your Character’s Level
If your writing isn’t coming from a place where the words are a direct reflection of what the character is seeing or experiencing, you aren’t on the right level.
Don’t tell the reader your MC has just seen the love of his life; write about the way his heartbeat quickens, his palms go clammy, and how he stutters when he says “Hello.”
If the reader isn’t experiencing your story’s events through your character’s eyes as much as possible, try to make sure they do.
Combine this with rewriting your info dumps, double-checking what each character knows, and how the feelings invoked by your words are coming across on the page, and you’ve got all you need to see if you’ve slipped out of deep POV—and a starting point for fixing it.
— K.M. Allan