If you are a writer who has a goal of selling books it is wise to remember that audiences are not static. They change. Their tastes change with the times and we need to understand what is “trending” if we want to connect and entertain. Many new writers look to the classics for inspiration and there isn’t anything per se wrong with that, but we must reinvent the classics, not regurgitate them.
Even if you look at the fashion trends, sure some styles “come back around” but they are not exact replicas of the past. They are a modernized version. But keep in mind that some fashion styles never come back. They’ve outlived their usefulness and belong in the past. Same with fiction.
Story trends and fashions change along with the audience. For instance, Moby Dick spends an excruciatingly long time talking about whales, namely because the audience of the time probably had never seen one and never would. If we did this today? Sure, feel free to walk around in a literary gold-plated cod piece, but er…
Epics were also very popular. Follow a character from the womb until death. FANTASTIC STUFF! Why? Because no one had HBO, Pinterest or Angry Birds. Books were a rare indulgence usually reserved for a handful of literate folks with the money or connections to get their hands on…a book.
Also, since writers were paid by the word, their works were padded more than a freshman term paper. Their motto? No modifier left behind. These days? We have to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner.
We’ve talked about POV before, and which one might be the best for your story. I can’t choose for any of you, but before we talk about deep POV, I want to mention that POV is also affected by audience and I believe is a direct reflection of how connected we are as a society.
You guys may or may not know that POV has changed along with communication and connectedness. Waaaaay back in the day, omniscient with a god-like narrator was all the rage. But people didn’t travel at all. Most humans lived and died in the place they were born and in isolation from other communities.
With the early epics, we often had a narrator who was separate from the events.
Dear Reader, come with me for a tale of AWESOME…
Later, after the Dark Ages, people got out more, traveled more, etc. We see the narrator merging into just general god-like presence. Then, after the printing press was invented, more and more people were reading and a lot of monks were out of a job and went off to start the first microbreweries.
Don’t argue. It’s history 😛 .
With pamphlets and papers, people became more engaged and journalism eventually gives birth to this new-fangled invention…first-person. Third person and third-person shifting only became popular after audiences grew accustomed to radio programs (and later television) and could mentally process the idea of a cut-to scene.
As people became networked closer and closer, we see the psychic distance closing. Now that we are a culture of reality TV and social media? Omniscient is a tough sell. I am not telling any of you what POV to choose, but I will say that modern readers will shy away from these older forms of POV because they “feel cold.” Modern readers LOVE being as close as possible, ergo my little side-trip through history.
And this is where we get *drum roll* deep POV.
You hear this word flung around the writing world. Oooh, deep POV. That is deep POV. Deep, Man.
Um, what is deep POV?
And, if you are like me, you go along and are too embarrassed to ask what the heck deep POV is? Everyone wants it. Readers love it. Uh, but what IS it? How do I do it? Can I order some off Amazon?
Deep POV is simply a technique that strips the author voice completely out of the prose. There is no author intrusion so we are left only with the characters. The reader is nice and snuggly in the “head” of the character.
Okay, clear as mud. Right? Right.
As an editor, I see the intrusion much more than authors. It is actually shocking how much you guys interrupt. In fact, you are like my mother chaperoning my first date who would swear she was quiet as a mouse.
I actually like deep POV because I love tight prose. I loathe unnecessary words. Deep POV not only leans up the writing, it digs deeper into the mental state of the character. We probably aren’t going to stay completely in deep POV, but it’s a nice place to call “home.”
How do we do it? Today, for the sake of brevity, we are just going to talk about simple stylistic changes, not the actual writing. We will do that next time 😉 .
First, Ditch the Tags
Just using the word “said” tells the reader we (the author) are there.
Kristen’s Made-Up Example (don’t judge me, just roll with it)
“No, I always love it when you drop by,” she said. Fifi felt her hands start to shake. She glanced over Tom’s shoulder and saw that the street was deserted. She knew all of her neighbors had already gone out of town for Christmas and no one would hear her scream. She thought, He is going to kill me.
Okay, so we get that Fifi is in a bad spot. But just that little word said tells us the author is present. So in the next layer we are going to remove the said.
While We Are Here? Thought and Sense Words—Ditch Those, Too
If we really pause and think about it, thought and sense words are frequently redundant. If we are IN the character’s head? We KNOW she is thinking. Who else would be thinking?
We aren’t dumb. Yes, it is my personal opinion, but I feel sensing and thinking words often qualify as holding the reader’s brain. We don’t need to. Readers are pretty smart.
Let’s look at my made-up example.
“No, I always love it when you drop by.” Fifi felt her hands start to shake. She glanced over Tom’s shoulder and saw that the street was deserted. She knew all of her neighbors had already gone out of town for Christmas and no one would hear her scream. She thought, He is going to kill me.
So we ditched the said and that tightened it up. Did you notice how losing the tag tightened the psychic distance? Now let’s remove these
stubborn stains unnecessary sensing and thinking words.
***Also, try to ditch any “starting to”. Do or do not, there is no
try starting to.
“No, I always love it when you drop by.” Fifi’s hands shook. She glanced over Tom’s shoulder. The street was deserted. All of her neighbors had already gone out of town for Christmas and no one would hear her scream. He is going to kill me.
Do you see how just getting rid of those excess words upped the tension of this piece? We (the reader) go from being a distant observer to being in the potentially deadly situation. We don’t need to tell the reader Fifi is thinking or feeling or about to do something. The reader gets that and us putting in glowing directional arrows is a distraction.
Fifi felt Tom’s hands clamp around her throat.
Just get to it already!
Tom’s hands clamped around her throat.
So I hope this helps clear up some of your “deep POV” questions. Remember that we live in a culture that is spoiled with intimacy and we can give them what they love. Next time, we will discuss characterization and how to write in deep POV beyond the stylistic choices.
Before we go, I want to give you a heads up especially if you are thinking on attending a conference.
I’m holding my ever-popular Your Story in a Sentence class. Can you tell what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t? There might be a huge plot problem. This also helps if you are ever going to query or pitch an agent. The first ten signups get their log-line shredded by MOI for FREE.
Also speaking of FREE, I’d like to mention again the new class I am offering!
How and WHY are we using FREE!?
Making Money with FREE! As a bonus for this class, my friend Jack Patterson who’s so far sold over 150,000 books to come and teach us how to ROCK the newsletter. This is in excess of two hours of training and the recording (as always) comes with purchase.
Were you confused what deep POV was and why people all wanted one? Is it really much easier than you imagined? Do you silently wish the bustle would come back into style?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of MARCH, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.
“Deep POV seems to pair well with narratives told in present tense,” the commenter said. “It’s like taking third person objective to the next level.”
Reblogged this on Morgyn Star and commented:
Can’t link you to our G + page as we keep it private, but that’s where 25 SFF writers post our best of the best blog links. But yeah, it’s going to my page as well. Kristen, have lost count how many times I’ve posted you. I love, love, love this post and will be flogging the snot out of it to the group. Thank you!
Reblogged this on Theo Fenraven and commented:
This blog post is so full of good, juicy stuff, I had to share! Read carefully, and do consider employing deep PoV in your next book.
“Ditch the ‘starting to.’ Do or do not….”
LOL I can’t count how many times I’ve put this in comments while editing. “Begin to” must also be added to that.
I think deep POV works with present tense, past tense, first person and thrid person. I do them all the same way, it works. It’s true present tense keeps you more grounded. I’m mega busy lately with work and child (no day care) and house and writing, and I easily turn acrid on whoever mishandles my time with nonsense (I used to be the sweetest thing in the world, I swear). Now I’m forced to optimize time, in reality and in fiction. So my writing goes straight to the point of its own accord. Mean, clean, quick, yes, that’s ma’ thang LOL
When I first heard the term Deep Third or Deep POV I though exactly that–what the .
Deep POV is nothing more than third person limited omniscient, and it’s been around for a long time. But, I am an academic and like the technical terms, and you are so right Kristen. POV preference does indeed change with the times; I love your historical take on the topic. And you know, microbrews changed a lot of our history too– “Thank the gods for out of work monks,” he said breathlessly as he gulped from his home basement made meade and felt his wrist brush across his lips to wipe away the excess.
Thanks, Kristen, your explanation is clear and concise! Very helpful.
Reblogged this on Magic Nurse and commented:
Good medicine for clean writing! Thanks Kristen!
Where is the tip jar? This is worth a fiver!
I struggle with deep pov when writing in third person, but in first person pov, my main character takes her place on center stage as the only star. It also means a lot less editing… like a year’s worth of difference. Knowing this, it’s better to stick to my strength.
I’ve been using 1st person Deep POV for a while. Two of the stories I sold used it, the first intuitively (it sounded better) but not rigorously, the second intentionally. I find it helps to focus my writing and keept backstory out. 😉
The comment that decided me was in a friends blog. It was an aside, not part of the main argument (BTW, Kristen, did you ever study law?). My friend said aproximately, ‘Is it successsful? Romance is the most successful genre in the world (cited some publishing stats). The modern romances that sell are all in 1st person deep POV.’
Convinced me. It is way harder to write (show a clutch of fear, a flash of embarassment..ah, ah, ahhh, no descriptive lapses to 2nd or 3rd person); but I like it a lot better. It’s more like living the action…which is the point. 😉
So simple…and yet so difficult not to slip back into the lazy storyTELLing mode. Thanks for this post. Deep POV is exactly what pulls me into a book. I can hardly read omniscient anymore (and wouldn’t even think of writing it, sorry John Flanagan).
I picked up Rise of the Machines a couple of months ago and have been putting the advice into practice. Great book, not only for the tips, but for the really great, fun writing! Thanks.
Question: Did Tom come to kill her because she stole his poodle’s name?
And I think I saw deep POV as an Amazon daily deal today…
Seriously, Kristen, thank you for making this so clearcut. It amazes me how many books I read — including those from the Big 5 — where the POV becomes redundant because the editors let this stuff slide. I’m a fan of deep POV too and always write that way. Sharing on Twitter right now! You’re awesome!
I’ve improved on my use of deep POV from story to story, using actions and movements of characters instead of dialog tags, or writing a character’s thoughts without the use of he or she thought/pondered/wondered, but I occasionally throw in a tag absent-mindedly.
I think the “old habits” are more evident in my first novel than they are in my second (still there, but not as many) and my more recent short stories and novellas. I’m quite cognizant of it now, working through the first draft of a new novel.
Also, in a scene with only two characters, I might start their dialogue with a tag or two, but then let it roll for several lines without tags to enhance the intensity and speed of their exchange. To your point, Kristen, readers are intelligent and will know who is talking, but I’ve still had editors ask me to add more tags to avoid possible confusion.
Thanks for the lesson in Deep POV. Just finished reading Rise of the Machines again. The lessons learned there also resulted in book sales which is what being an author is all about, right?
Fabulous! Did you leave a review or if you have can you add it? I love seeing success from you guys!!! 😀 <3
I thought I had already done it, but I went and looked and realized I had not written a review! The Shame! It’d done now! Five Stars too!
Reblogged; yet another great piece of advice. Thank you very much for the helpful tips.
Reblogged this on Gwendalyn Cope and commented:
Kristin Lamb’s SUPER POWER is the ability to take writing advice I’ve heard a thousand times (and *yawned* at) and make it SPARKLE. I suddenly GET “deep POV”.
Kristen, I just re-blogged this post. I don’t know HOW you do it, and I’m not really sure WHY you do it, but this post on deep POV blew me away. My critique partners at Seton Hill (their Writing Popular Fiction MFA program is awesome, by the way) have been circling, highlighting and crossing-out all my “tags” and I did understand what they meant, but you just said it so perfectly that I finally, FINALLY “got” it. Thanks, Kristen!
I tend to be on the dense side, myself so I learned I had to make it stupid simple so people like ME could “get” it 😀 .
Your wicked sense of humor really is the key. For me, at least. Thanks again.
Reblogged this on writersback and commented:
Awesome post by Kristen Lamb on writing Deep Point of View.
Writing Deep POV allows the reader to feel and experience what the character does and its not hard to do. Also, Kristen’s class, ‘Your Story in a Sentence’, was super helpful and I recommend it to anyone thinking of pitching their manuscript at a writing conference or a query letter to an agent.
Whew! I’d heard “deep POV” but never looked up what it means. I’m so glad to hear you say people *like* it, because apparently I’ve been accidentally using it in my first novel this whole time.
Although now that I know what it is (thank you!!!), I’ll keep a close eye during revisions to make sure I haven’t slipped up here and there.
Thank you. May I say it again? Thank you. When I’m in 1st person POV as a reader, I assume the narrator is doing the thinking, feeling, observing, etc. But in the past I’ve had critique partners (no longer my critique partners) draw big red arrows in my 1st person stories asking, “Who is thinking this? This is a POV shift? You have to let readers know MC thought or felt or . . .” And, worse, I was dense enough to listen and keep applying the tags. To be fair, maybe my writing was clumsy. LOL (Maybe?)
Dear Kristin, I’m enjoying your blogs. I’m particularly grateful for today’s education. This is most helpful!
Thank you for this article. I’ve never heard of deep POV.
And I had never thought of the word ‘said’ representing author intrusion.
In fact I tend to omit the word in my own writing, making it clear from the dialogue who is speaking. My writing is concise and I didn’t think I used author intrusion ( but always notice it when judging short stories) so will have to keep myself on track now to avoid it!
I was one of Rayne Hall’s beta readers when she wrote her book on Deep POV and it covers the topic in depth. I highly recommend it to any author seriously pursuing deep pov in their writing. http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Deep-Point-View-Professional-ebook/dp/B016FLA282/
Ooo! I love this post! I’ve been doing this on my novel and everytime I go through it I see more words that I can strip from it.
This explanation is going to help me out a ton when I have to explain to my client that “he said” isn’t necessary after every single line of dialogue. Intrusion is the perfect word. Very helpful. Thank you!
Reblogged this on Flynn Gray and commented:
More great writing tips from Kristen Lamb – this time on writing Deep POV. What is Deep POV, and how can it improve our writing? Kristen provides some great advice and examples in this article. ~ Flynn
This is solid advice on how to write in deep POV. I just feel compelled to point out James Patterson’s tag line for his writing course. Focus on the story, not the sentence.
Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
A great explanation of deep POV.
Since I live within 30 miles of where I was born and will most likely die here (not soon I hope) I welcome any writing ideas I can find! This was very clear and your sense of humor helps the read!
What a transformation from the 1st example to the very last. I probably have A LOT of revising to do so thank you for the catalyst.
Wow the correct way to handle POV now has a name, go figure. If one only uses tags and the like for clarity, they are used less. Never waste or overuse any word.
I keep waiting for you to announce a Deep POV class. I get it intellectually, but getting it down in writing is easier said than done.
Kristen gives more good tips than a flirtatious businessman gives a pretty waitress who mistakes her smile as an open invite. I really do appreciate you helping me understand a Deep POV better, makes it easier to trim the fat and get to the meat of the matter at hand during my story. Keep of the great work Ms. Lamb, because you rock, POV and all!
Hahaa! I like your publishing website too. I am currently writing crime fiction and hoping to publish later this year so will definitely require your services.
Super helpful and clearly explained 🙂
CLear and concise. Thank you very much.
I’ve asked several writers (by way of internet) about deep pov to no avail. Sure, they thought they were explaining it to me but… Kristen, giving the example and working it through made all the difference in the world for me. Turns out I’ve been doing this in my draft anyway, although now I wonder if I should be doing it all the time and not just when I want to quicken the pace a bit.
LOVE your blog and your writing. Can’t enter the Patterson contest, but your Fifi sounds terrific – best of luck in becoming his next co-author!!!
Keep these lessons coming. I can actually grasp it when you spoon feed it to me in small bites. I’ve been reading about deep POV but today you smacked me upside the head with it. I appreciate it.
Thank you! This is a very helpful example. I’d love to see more deep PoV examples, and perhaps someday get some hands-on one-on-one instruction and feedback. On another note, I know what you mean about unnecessary words but I find the comment contradictory when it comes to the blog posts. The information you provide in your posts are very helpful. I can tell you’re a great resource when it comes to writing techniques. Despite the helpful information, I don’t visit your blog very much because I find the long posts daunting. When I do read, I tend to skim over most of it before I get to the good stuff. Perhaps most readers find all the detail helpful?
I’ve done it both ways. The problem with a blog is that really going through to edit and make them short takes time. I do this for free, so I really need to do the paid work. I have gone shorter and had complaints. People like the long posts because, while long for a blog, I give you information that might be in 50 pages of a craft book. I also deliberately bullet these posts for folks like you who are skimmers. If you need extra elucidation? It’s there. If not? Skim and you’re still good. Such is the challenger for writing to a variety of tastes 😀 . Now my BOOKS? Those are lean. But I spend a lot more time in editing those.
Thanks 🙂 I still find your posts very helpful. I can understand that you can’t please everyone, so it makes sense to do what’s easier for you. Thank you for highlighting and using bullet points for those of us who tend to skim.
I’m totally with you here. I got so sick of repeatedly telling these things to editing clients that I wrote a book called The Elements of Active Prose which covers how to make prose as active and engaging as possible for modern audiences. We are competing with movies, after all! http://tahlianewland.com/product/the-elements-of-active-prose/
I generally try to write like this (though I didn’t realize there was a name for it), but my elementary and middle school teachers keep bopping me upside the head – in my head, of course.
Perfect explanations and examples for deep POV. I particulary loved this line, …sensing and thinking words often qualify as holding the reader’s brain.” That one line made tons of sense to me. Thanks and as always, love your sense of humor. @sheilagood at Cow Pasture Chronicles
Thanks for writing this! Exactly what I am looking for to help shorten my manuscripts.
Also, some of the best beer in Germany IS made by monks. Had some when I was there.. yummm..
Reblogged this on Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog and commented:
Kristen Lamb has one of the most respected, award-winning writers blogs in the blogosphere. On occasion, I like to seek over to her blog and do a “Reblog” from one of her great posts. This particular blog is about Point of View (POV) which can be more difficult to keep consistent, or intriguing, when writing fiction or non-fiction then most writers know. I hope you enjoy her post, and I encourage you to follow her blog.
Scott Biddulph | Editor-in-Chief
Reblogged this on Jens Thoughts and commented:
Reblogged this on Anita Dawes & Jaye Marie.
Wonderfully helpful post, just found out that I’m a bit cleverer than I thought!
Reblogged this on Chimaeral and commented:
This week’s reblog comes from Kristen Lamb and deals with writing Point-of-View stories, but not just any POV – Deep POV:
Very good post but HOW’D IT TURN OUT FOR FIFI?
I recognise it now. It is more intimate, I must try more and stop getting so confused. lol Thank you for a great post, going to look forward to the next one.
Reblogged this on firefly465 and commented:
Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
Kristen Lamb is introducing deep POV. There’s so much to learn and so little time. Thank you Kristen for another very educational blog post!
Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.
thanks for this, the history helped me to understand the deep POV. Will reblog.
Soon there won’t be any words left to use. We’ll have nouns and verbs.
Deep POV is not necessarily something you use for the ENTIRE story. We use it as a tool to zoom in the perspective and give added intimacy. In fact, using it this way is actually quite effective. It’s the literary equivalent of what filmmakers do with music.
No, I will not consider deep pov. Editorial omniscient narration is my one true way, and I will not be deterred from it by any kind of opportunism.