Kristen Lamb

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Want a Page-Turner? You Need Deep POV

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 7.26.00 AMToday, 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…

I was wrong, you CAN buy Deep POV on Amazon…well at least a good book about it.

Please check out Marcy’s book Deep Point of View on Amazon (and on Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, and Kobo too). It’s available in print and ebook, and it’ll help you learn how to rock deep POV!

37 thoughts on “Want a Page-Turner? You Need Deep POV”

  1. katrinavanwagenenkatrinavanwagenen

    Where and when are you speaking in Utah? I’d love to go!

  2. ontyrepassagesontyrepassages

    I’ve read Marcy’s book on Deep POV—twice. It’s worth every penny, and doesn’t cost many of those.

  3. ellenchauvetellenchauvet

    This is excellent – re-blogged on ellenchauvet.wordpress.com

  4. UniquelyHis67UniquelyHis67

    I asked about this book in a group. They said that Marcy had only written short stories. I was considering ordering this book. So my question is would you highly recommend it for novel; writers? Also they prefer James Scott Bell but I never read anything about deep POVs in his books.

    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      Marcy is also a long-time editor (her specialty being novels) and Jim’s book on POV is great but I don’t believe it covers deep POV. I buy all of Jim’s books so they’re all a great investment. Check out her sample pages and if it isn’t your beer? No worries. I never have guests unless I believe in their stuff 😉 .

  5. Rachel Funk HellerRachel Funk Heller

    I can’t tell you enough how helpful Marcy’s entire “Busy Writer Guide” series has been for me. And this one is really saving my a$$. I have three separate POV characters in my current WIP and I’ve had trouble over using direct address, pronoun mix-ups, etc. Marcy’s book has really helped me get my act together.

  6. marymtfmarymtf

    Great post. Showing can be just as important when you’re writing opinion pieces. I often trip over too much telling when revising a second draft. I don’t know whether or not it was deliberate, but I found your example of the doll whose head exploded like a car bomb very 21st century. 🙂

  7. The Ranting MonkeyThe Ranting Monkey

    In both tales, we are given new information in the second tellings. Deep POV is great but as with so many examples of it, these change the original story. A vague favorite toy is different than a doll a child finds too precious to play with. One might even argue calling the latter a toy is wrong since it’s treated more like a decoration.

    In the second example, we learn in the retelling that this isn’t her apartment, something not even hinted at in the original.

    In both examples, a lack of deep POV isn’t the problem in the original telling. The problem is important details are left out of the story.

    Are the retellings better? Personally I think the retelling in the first example is better where the second example, minus learning things we should have been told, is just needlessly wordy. To me it says, “I needed to up my word count” rather than adding any emotional connection.

    But, that’s just my opinion.

  8. Adrian Thomas SchlesingerAdrian Thomas Schlesinger

    Question for the community: How well does deep POV work with backstory? Obviously, the way to handle–I almost called it “BS”–backstory in deep POV is have a character reflect on a past event and describe how it makes her feel through actions. But there are limits to that. Imagine starting Star Wars at the point when Luke Skywalker is about to take off in his X-wing for the battle of Yavin. (F’ing awesome way to start a book, by the way.) How does he take the time to backstory all the events to brought him to this point? Would a normal person, sitting in his X-Wing, think about meeting Ben in the desert and growing up with his Uncle on the moisture farm? There’s a lot of detail there. Would the reader have that much patience? Get to the battle!

    The answer is, you’d probably not do that. In conventional writing–Tolkien, Martin, Herbert–the narrator can go off half-cocked and bring in all kinds of back story. Deep POV may not have such a luxury, simply because a normal person wouldn’t recite a story in their head they know so well.

    Sum up (TL:DR): Is deep POV the enemy of backstory?

    • marcykennedymarcykennedy

      Nope 🙂 Backstory just takes a slightly different form in deep POV. In normal life, we’d call it memories.

      When you’re writing in deep POV, all backstory happens in smaller bites and is doled out when the POV character would naturally think about it. Usually that means they think about it when something else triggers the memory. They remember quickly and then move on, in the same way we would. We wouldn’t normally stop what we’re doing to spend 20 minutes thinking about an event in our past.

      Today’s readers tend to like backstory given in this way better because it doesn’t slow the story down as much.

  9. katkent2014katkent2014

    Reblogged this on writersback and commented:
    Great post by Kristen Lamb on more Deep POV and a great book recommendation, Deep Point of View by Marcy Kennedy.

  10. amyskennedyamyskennedy

    Marcy, can’t wait to get my hands on this book! Kristen, thanks for having Marcy. Deep point of view can be so tricky, I know it when I read it, or rather, not while I’m reading it, because I’m so engrossed, but afterward, thinking about it. Yet, I seem to forget it while I’m writing…d’oh!

  11. lynnkelleyauthorlynnkelleyauthor

    This is a super helpful post. Thanks, Marcy, and thank you, Kristen, for having Marcy guest post.

  12. katkent2014katkent2014

    Today, I ordered your book Deep Point of View online at B&N, Marcy. Can’t wait to read it. Thank you for the post, Kristen.

  13. lisyndonlisyndon

    Nice post as always…Love this blog…

  14. Dawn RossDawn Ross

    These examples are awesome! I need a lot of practice with deep PoV. But more than that, I need someone to critique my deep PoV to see if I’m pulling it off. Reading up on how to do it and doing it is a lot different than actually succeeding at doing it. Suggestions?

  15. schillingklausschillingklaus

    I thoroughly boycott and avoid deep PoV. Editorial omniscient is my one true path to walk, and none of your intimidation will deter me therefrom. Likewise, I deem telling emotions the one and only acceptable way.

    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      Probably why none of us have heard of your work. But keep writing for yourself. Seems to be working.

  16. Amy WaltersAmy Walters

    Fantastic post so helpful! I will be keeping up with your future posts 🙂

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