deep point of view
Writing Craft
Scott Stoops  

Using a deep point of view.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Who says he’s seeing this place the way we’re seeing it? Humans see what they want to see. You’re very stubborn—er, persistent, that way?”

Richard Riordan, The Lightening Thief

Albert and I were sitting around the fire with a few other writer friends. I was in a meditative mood, listening to and, sometimes vainly, following conversations, feeling the contrasting cold air around me and warm fire before me, nursing a mug of mulled wine. I placed another sacrifice to the god of autumn on the fire and leaned back in my chair. Although I like Albert and want to help him out on his writing journey, I wasn’t in the mood for a conversation about a deep point of view. Albert was.

“Something about my MC for this novel seems off to me,” Albert said. “He just seems distant and aloof. I’m trying to figure out the best way to portray him.”

We had previously talked about a character’s point of view, so I knew he had most of the information he needed.

“What have you tried?”

“I’ve ruled out second person. That’s just too weird for me.”

For me, too. I sipped the mulled wine and let its warm woodiness entice me. “How close do you want your readers to get to your character?”

“Not too close. He’s kind of a creep. Not demented serial killer creep, but still…”

“Is that necessarily bad?”

Albert looked at me, puzzled. And then I could see in his eyes that the internal wheels were probably churning. Of course, it might have simply been a trick of the failing light and the mulled wine induced haze.

Albert sat silently, sipping from his own mug, then said, “That could work. I could go deep. So, first person?”

Deep point of view

I hadn’t noticed, but the other conversations had died down.

“Or deep third person,” Mark said. He took another puff from his pipe before continuing. “It really depends on how close you want to get to the character.”

“Deep third person?” Albert asked.

“This quote should help you: ‘Deep POV is a style of fiction writing that aims to remove all the psychic or narrative distance between the reader and the character so the reader feels as if they’re immersed in the story. By removing the author/narrator voice, the reader takes a vicarious emotional journey along with the point-of-view character.1

“So, how is that different from first person? Apart from the pronouns.”

“The simple answer is that first person POV is a little closer, a little more focused,” Mark said.

Deep point of view limits your characters

“In both cases, you are limiting yourself to only what the viewpoint character would know and observe. For instance, if we transcribed this conversation, whose voice would it be in?”

Albert shrugged. “I suppose anyone of us.”

“Fair point.” This was going to take a little more explaining. I glanced into my cup and noticed that it was nearly empty. “For the sake of illustration, we will say I’m the main character. Who here has made observations about anything going on around us?”

Albert looked around. Nobody responded. “Only you, I guess. But doesn’t that violate what you are suggesting about how much I would know?”

“We’re imagining that you are reading it,” Ginger chimed in for the first time. She poured a little more mulled wine into my cup.

“We see only your thoughts and observations,” Albert said. “But that’s in first person.”

“It’s close enough.” Albert is a fairly intelligent person, but some things take time to sink into his brain.

“I resent that!”

“How would you even know what I thought about you?”

“I saw the look on your face!”

Going deep also expands your characters

“But if a deep point of view limits my character, then it should also be able to expand him. Kind of like when we used to use magnifying lenses to set paper on fire.”

We all chuckled. I’m not sure that’s the analogy I would use, but it works. “Right. What things would your character be afraid of saying but is thinking? How do his thoughts shape his responses and reactions? How does he view others? These are all things you can reveal when you are in deep POV that would be difficult to do otherwise.”

Finishing up

The thing about sitting around a fire on a cool October evening with good friends, sipping wine, and talking is that you lose track of time. Early dusk gave way to a palate of red, orange, and yellow hues from the setting sun, which then gave way to deep night and the sounds of unseen creatures awaking for their time in the world. Life had settled into that cozy atmosphere of friends sharing their stories and reveling in just being present together.

“So, how do I write in deep POV?” Albert asked.

I wanted to say Google it to him, but refrained. “Same time, same bat-channel, Albert.”

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