Deepening POV

I was originally going to present this at a writing tips chat but time ran out for the scheduled hour, so it didn’t quite work out. I’ll share the info here, if you have any questions, please post them in the comments.

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I’m going to talk about some ways to deepen the point of view in your stories.

Think about your favorite stories and why you like them. You care about the characters, you feel like you are living the adventures with them, you share their emotions, right? In other words, you are living in the characters’ heads.

Some authors use first person point of view (POV) in order to allow the reader to experience the emotions right along with the character. While some writers use that for one or two main characters, it isn’t comfortable for everyone, and some readers dislike stories written in this style. Sometimes the action alternates between 1st person and 3rd person, and other times, a 3rd person omniscient voice is used…so there’s a narrator who can see inside everyone’s head. That can be a little clunky and difficult to achieve.

Then there’s the issue of head-hopping, where the action constantly shifts between different characters’ POVs. Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb uses this technique in her stories, and although some readers object to it, I think she does it wonderfully and I am only rarely thrown out of the story by a shift. Not everyone can achieve this seamlessly and it’s even more awkward if the POV is not deep enough.

There are multiple techniques for deepening point of view. One way is to remove dialogue tags and use action tags instead. Some folks postulate that the eye skips over “said” (and alternate words meaning the same) and “asked” but I think it slows down the action. I’d rather use that opportunity to give an idea of the emotion or action and bring the reader into the scene.

Instead of: “How are we going to get away?” she asked nervously.

Use: “How are we going to get away?” She shredded the napkin, crumpled the fragments, and jumped up as if she couldn’t still. (if not in this character’s POV)

or

“How are we going to get away?” What did he think they could do with no money and a broken-down bicycle? They were going to get caught, and she was never going to get out of this hick town. (if in this character’s POV)

 

You can play with the action tags to give insight into the character’s personality (whiny, snarky, courageous, fed-up, etc.)

 

Another way to deepen POV is part of the “show vs. tell” technique. Don’t tell us he’s angry, SHOW it.

Instead of: He was so mad. He couldn’t believe his buddy would betray him like that.

Use: Slamming his fist into the door, he growled. Joe wouldn’t do that…would he?

 

And finally, remove the distancing words. Get rid of: he knew, she felt, he thought, she believed. Allow the reader to experience it along with the reader.

Instead of: He knew the table was too flimsy for the crock pot.

Use: That was an accident waiting to happen. They were going to put that heavy crock pot on the table and it was going to collapse. Then he wouldn’t have to hurt her feelings by refusing to eat that weird concoction.

The following are a few sites you can consult for more detailed descriptions. There are fantastic sites all over the web that can be used to help enhance your writing, just Google some of the key terms and then wander around the different help topics.

http://romanceuniversity.org/2015/10/28/let-your-readers-think-for-themselves-by-ryan-lanz/

http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/showing-and-telling-the-basics.html

http://melaniecard.com/for-writers/dialogue-tags-vs-descriptive-beats/

 

I hope this helps you deepen your points of view, or at least makes you stop and think before you write that redundant “he asked” after a sentence that ends with a question mark! Thank you for your attention.

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