Today, I’m busy finishing up work before I have to travel and speak in Utah, so since we’d been discussing Deep POV, I figured I’d get a Deep POV expert to come and weigh in on the subject. Marcy Kennedy is an excellent teacher and has actually written a whole book on the subject, and she’s taken time out of her busy schedule to help us out.
Take it away, Marcy!
In her post Introducing Deep POV—WHAT IS It? Can We Buy Some on Amazon? Kristen explained why deep POV is more popular than the old trends that defined the classics. Those old ways of writing? Probably not coming back unless an EMP pulse permanently fries all our technology.
I think it’s actually a great thing we’ve moved on to deep POV. Deep POV is the magic sauce that can make our books so all-consuming that readers miss their subway stops, consider calling in sick for work, and burn the casserole.
Why? Well, in deep POV, there’s no distance between the reader and the character. The reader experiences the world through the character’s mind, body, and senses. They hear the character’s voice. It’s personal and intimate. This means readers form a stronger connection to the characters and they have to know what happens to them.
It also means that everything is filtered through the character before readers receive it. Nothing is objective. The character is interpreting the story for us in the same way that we interpret what happens in our lives. That means that in deep POV even the “less exciting” parts like description become exciting because they show emotion and personality.
So let’s look at two ways we can develop deep POV in our writing…
Show the Emotion, Don’t Tell It
This works to suck the reader in because we’re feeling an emotion rather than being told about an emotion. If I tell you that I’m sad, or feeling guilty, or scared, you’re not going to feel much. There’s too much distance. It’s too cold and flat.
If you’re brought in so close that my sadness or guilt or fear becomes real to you, maybe even reminds you of when you felt those emotions, now you’re feeling it too.
Let’s take an example.
Telling: Jennifer was sad because of the death of her daughter. She went into the little girl’s room and threw one of her favorite toys against the wall, shattering it.
Even an empath wouldn’t feel anything from the shallow Telling version.
Deep POV (Showing): Jennifer stood face to face with the delicate porcelain doll Ellie idolized too much to even play with. The doll stared back, her face held in an immortal smile, mocking. No doll deserved to live longer than the little girl who owned her. Jennifer snatched the doll from the shelf and heaved her toward the far wall. The doll’s head exploded like a car bomb, fragments flying everywhere.
In the Deep POV version, this is now a specific, nuanced sadness. It’s how Jennifer experiences her sadness. Jennifer isn’t just sad. She’s also angry, maybe even a little bitter. That’s very different from a character who is sad and guilty, or a character who is sad…but also a little bit relieved.
Use Description as a Way to Increase Tension, Heighten Emotion, and Reveal Personality
How many times have you skimmed over a description that read something like this?
Jennifer ducked into the only other room in the apartment—a bedroom. It had a Captain’s bed, an end table butted up to the bedside, and big windows along one wall. Ugly orange and green curtains covered the windows from the top to three inches off the floor. To one side was a tiny, doorless bathroom. She had nowhere to hide, and if he found her here, he’d kill her.
Yawn. I almost fell asleep writing it. I’ve described the room, but it’s a boring description because these are the objective facts. There aren’t any opinions to go along with it. There’s no personality.
Let’s try this again in deep POV. This time I’m going to weave the description in among the action (when Jennifer would naturally pay attention to each item) and let Jennifer tell it in her voice.
Jennifer careened into the only other room in the apartment—a bedroom. The unmade bed was one of those Captain styles with drawers underneath that she’d always associated with kids, not adults. No place to hide there.
Out in the main room, the rattle of a chain marked him locking the door behind him.
She spun in a circle. The only door other than the one she came in led to a tiny bathroom. Without a door. What kind of a person didn’t at least hang up a curtain? She glanced inside. Or a shower curtain for crying out loud.
A clatter on the kitchen countertop. Probably keys and a cell phone being emptied from a pocket. If he was like most people, his next stop would be the bathroom. And he’d catch her. And she’d be dead.
She skittered back to the orange-and-green pinstriped curtains that looked like rejects from the second-hand store her Aunt Bertie owned in the 80s. She ducked behind. Her feet stuck out the bottom. If he didn’t look down…please God let him not look down.
We now have a description of the bedroom that not only shows us the facts but also adds to the tension and hints at the personalities of both Jennifer and the man who owns this bedroom.
That’s the way deep POV makes description—and everything else—interesting.
***Thank you, Marcy. And, as a correction…