Deep POV has been around for a while, but many authors are either frightened by it or confused by it. But when used correctly, it is a powerful tool that can take your writing to the next level.
What is it?
The best explanation I ever heard for deep POV came from Kristen Kieffer from She's Novel. Deep POV attempts to get rid of all traces of authorship. It's taking the reader so deep into the thoughts, experiences, and emotions of the characters that the reader is completely immersed in that character. In essence, they become that character. They feel what the character feels. They experience what the character experiences.
Why use it?
The goal of fiction is to create a fictional dream. To make your readers forget who and where they are for a while. When you do that, you've hooked them. They will want to turn the pages until they get to the end. And then they'll be sad the story is over. They'll want more from you. By using deep POV, you heighten that fictional dream. It becomes the fictional experience. You will take their breath away.
Can you only use it for drama?
This is one excuse I've heard some writers use for not employing deep POV. And it's not valid. Romance, comedy, cozy mystery - they all benefit from deep POV. In romance, don't you want your readers to fall in love with the hero every bit much as the heroine does? Don't you want them to laugh along with your characters? Of course! The point of deep POV is to heighten the reading experience. And if you do that in romance or light fiction, you'll capture your audience.
How does it work?
Here's the crux of the matter. There are several ways to know you're writing deep POV.
1. Get rid of as many italics as possible. Change internal thought from being italicized, first person, present tense, to plain text, third person, past tense. For example:
This is the weirdest thing that ever happened to me. (not deep POV)
This was the weirdest that that ever happened to her. (deep POV)
The italics pop the reader from the fictional dream. Don't do it!
2. Watch for key telling words and eliminate them unless they appear in dialogue. These words include: thought, felt, saw, heard, smelled, remembered, hoped, imagined, watched, etc. You don't use these words when you think to yourself, so don't use them when writing. For example:
She saw the burglar sprint from the house. (not deep POV)
The burglar sprinted from the house. (deep POV)
There went the burglar, sprinting from the house. (even better deep POV, because that's how you think)
3. Don't tell emotion. This kind of goes back to #2, but I want to expand on it. Don't say that she felt nervous. Or angry, or tired, or sad. Show it, let the readers feel it and identify it themselves. For example:
She was nervous. (not deep POV)
She twisted the bracelet around and around on her wrist and tapped her toes as an entire colony of butterflies took up residence in her stomach. (deep POV)
Can't you feel her nerves in the second example? And because you've experience similar feelings in your life, you know what they are. And identify with the character.
Don't be afraid of deep POV, no matter what genre you write. Take the plunge, give it a try, and watch it transform your writing.
Liz is teaching an intensive weekend course on deep POV in May. If you're interested in learning more about this exciting writing technique, visit
What is POV?
No head hopping
Notice the word show not feel the reactions. It often gets confused by beginning writers—okay sometimes those of us who’ve written many books still have that problem. My hand is in the air, so this post isn’t just for you but for me as well.
Let’s look at this photo.
Let’s name our character Caitlin.
We could say: Caitlin couldn’t believe she was swinging on the deck of a boat, preparing to jump into water over her head. She was terrified.
Readers will get that, everyone knows what it’s like to swing, and they know what it’s like to be scared, but what if we could make our readers feel what Caitlin is feeling?
We do that with writing physical reactions.
Some of the reactions she might be having are:
An adrenaline rush because she’s about to jump from a swing on a boat into a lake and she doesn’t swim well. That’s all great but what does an adrenaline rush feel like, look like?
Her heart is racing.
|photo by Noah Silliman|
Maybe she is shallow breathing, and that’s making her dizzy.
It’s sunset, maybe it was 110 degrees that day, and the chain swings are burning her hands, but she can’t quite let go.
Let’s throw in some more problems for her, she has to do this because she signed up to raise money for St. Jude’s Hospital because they helped her sister. She’s raised $10,000 dollars for this jump, and if she doesn’t do it, she’s letting everyone down. So now she’s also sick to her stomach.
If some of those reactions are added to our description of a girl swinging, you’ll bring her to life, and your readers will feel what she feels without writing Caitlin felt scared.
Caitlin couldn’t believe she was swinging on the deck of a boat, preparing to jump into water over her head. She was terrified.
The swing chains burned Caitlin’s hands. All she had to do was let go, and it would be over. Her stomach rolled like the swell from the boats in the lake. She swallowed or tried too but there was not any moisture in her mouth. Breathe Caitlin, she could almost hear her sister’s voice. That’s why she was here, if she could do chemo then Caitlin could jump. On three. She’d go on the third swing. One, two...
Pull out a piece of your writing and add some physical reactions. Do you like it? Does it pull you into the story more?
Christian author, Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, writes historical and contemporary romances about women who challenge their fears even though they want to run from them. Author of Mind of Her Own, A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee and We’re Not Blended-We’re Pureed, A Survivor’s Guide to Blended Families.