Are you getting ready to write NaNoWriMo and wondering just what POV or voice to write it in? Try Deep POV! I love how Deep POV gets a reader into the skin of the characters and helps them feel the story.
Here’s how it works:
Have you ever watched the television show Fear Factor? It’s a show where people are challenged to do “scary” things like eat a live spider or bungee jump, for charity. It’s supposed to elicit people’s deepest fears and make them overcome them. I watch it and think, “Never. Not even for charity.” However, do I feel my throat closing, that panic clenching my gut, my legs telling me to run? No. I just think – wow, they are idiots.
Consider, however, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. We watch with our hands over our eyes, our heart in our throats, experiencing true fear.
This is the difference between Standard 3rd person POV and Deep 3rd person POV. One watches from a distance, the other engages us in the fear.
Why write Deep POV?
A great book is made up of the emotional highs and lows of the POV characters. We want to feel what the character feels, ride their journey with them and possibly learn with them. A great story makes us ache with the character, and eventually, engage with their choices, their struggles with values and their epiphany. Think about this – what is going to glue your reader to the page more – grappling with the black moment/life-changing decisions with the character, or to view it from a distance? Deep POV is illuminating, empowering, it helps us understand the point of the story.
Think of the difference between Deep POV and Standard Third Person as the difference between watching the action from the outside, as if walking beside the character (Fear Factor) and being inside the body and mind of the character. (Psycho)
Consider a scene written in Standard Third person POV:
The door creaked as Little Red Riding Hood eased the door open. The moonlight fell across her grandmother, asleep in her gown in the overstuffed chair in front of the now dormant fire. “Grandmother?”
“Over here, child,” the voice said, and it seemed to Red that it contained a rough edge to it.
She tiptoed over. In the dim light, her grandmother’s hands appeared small and shaggy, her face unkempt even as she kept it away from Red. Red always thought her grandmother had aged too quickly in recent years. She feared arriving one day to discover that she had passed away. Hence, her decision to visit Granny despite the howl of the wind outside. The chill in the room scurried across her skin. She needed to start a fire and reminded herself to scold the useless woodcutter she paid to keep Granny’s fire lit.
“I brought you biscuits,” she said and held out her basket.
Grandmother turned and smiled. The moonlight appeared to glint off her teeth.
Her voice shook, betraying a sudden spurt of fear. “What large teeth you have grandmother…”
In this scene, the narrator is showing and telling us the state of mind of Red Riding Hood, bringing us the story by walking in the room beside Red.
Now, let’s put it into Deep POV.
The door creaked, the sound raising the fine hairs on her neck as Red eased it open. The moonlight fell across her grandmother, settling into the folds of her white gown as she slept in the overstuffed chair. Funny, her hands on the arm rests seemed more gnarled, older than last week. Granny was fading before her eyes.
The fire spit out white ash from the cold hearth. Where was the woodcutter? Of course he hadn’t stopped by – probably curled up in some tavern with his fellow loggers, drinking away the five pence she paid him to keep Granny’s fire lit. Just wait until she hunted him down.
The quiet of the room sifted through her. Something didn’t feel right, almost sinister. The cold scurried across her skin.
“I brought you biscuits.” She held out the basket. Why had she arrived so late? Poor Granny – probably she hadn’t even had dinner.
Then, Granny turned. Grinned.
Uh… Deep breath. Don’t run. Because really, since when did Granny have incisors?
She kept her voice steady even as she reached for the axe. “What large teeth you have grandmother…”
There are a number of tricks an author can use to pull a reader deeper into the story, but the most useful is to employ the first person test. Try changing your prose into first person – I, my, me, even we. This technique puts the author (and reader) right into the skin/mind of the POV character. It allows everything – all the senses, the dialogue, the thoughts – to flow through the mind of the author/character. If your character, in first person, would think it, then your character in third person deep POV would also think it.
Deep POV doesn’t work for all genres or stories, so employ it with care. But if you want to write a powerful story that pulls the reader into the heart of the character, try Deep POV.
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Go – write something brilliant!