Writing in Deep POV

Most writers I work with have POV basics down, and we’ll cover a few of those in a minute. There’s an easy trick though to dive into a deep POV that brings your reader closer to your character. Anything you can do as a writer to get out of the reader’s way is only going to help your story. Let’s have a look.

POV Basics

Here’s a quick point-of-view review.

  1. Don’t switch. When you’re in a scene, stay in one character’s POV. That means we hear one character’s thoughts and one character’s thoughts only until the scene changes or there’s some other sign of a switch, like a line break.
  2. Limit the POV character. This is related to number one, but unless they’re god your POV character is going to be limited in what they can know. They can’t read minds, they aren’t aware of events they didn’t witness or weren’t told about and can’t describe physical reactions in themselves they can’t see in a mirror or sense (ie, they can’t see their cheeks getting red from embarrassment, but they can feel the blood rushing to them).

Deep POV

The biggest thing you can do to help deepen the POV in your story is to cut filter words: he noticed, he felt, he saw, she seemed, she decided, he thought, she knew, and so on. These words put a step between your reader and the POV character. They create distance and they hinder empathy. Empathy is good. Let’s look at an example.

Van pushed open the door. He knew Riley wouldn’t like him going in alone, but he decided they were out of time.

We can rewrite that last sentence for deep POV by taking out the filter words.

Van pushed open the door. Riley wouldn’t like him going in alone, but they were out of time.

See the changes? I cut out two filters: he knew and he decided. Let’s try another.

Ben stood before the abandoned house, waiting. He thought he saw something flicker in an upstairs window.

Those sentences can all use some big changes. How about:

He waited. Was that something flickering in the upstairs window?

This would work better, assuming there’s context to tell us we’re in front of an abandoned house, but ideally that would be communicated through telling descriptive detail (peeling paint, falling shutters) and not just saying “abandoned house.”

A quick note. It’s not always necessary to write in a deep POV. An intentionally distant third-person narrator is a completely valid creative choice, but deeper POV is a more modern style (here’s a quick overview on choosing a POV from Writer’s Digest). It’s can also be a happy medium between distant third and first-person, which is more challenging for novice writers to pull off. You get some of the same emotional benefits for the reader without all the work of maintaining such a distinct voice.