Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Deep POV - Again!

If you've been on the ACFW loop at all this past week, you know the big topic of conversation was deep POV. It was also the topic I presented to my local ACFW chapter last Saturday. Which reminds me, thank you to whomever started this thread on the loop. It gave me the perfect segue :-)

I've noticed this thread comes up on the loop at least twice a year. And every time it does, you can detect the perplexity in the emails that follow. Most novice writers, even some who've been at it a while, have no idea what deep POV is.

So, for the record: Deep POV is getting so far into the POV character's head, it's almost like writing from their first-person perspective.

Inevitably, a discussion of deep POV leads to italics. Deep POV is not italicized. Only direct thoughts are done in italics. This can raise a dozen more questions, but I prefer to just leave it there. Some people love italics, some hate them. Bottom line is, use them sparingly. An editor or agent is not going to reject you because you've italicized something that they don't think should be.

Here are some tips for deepening POV:

1) Get into character - Imagine what it's like to be that person. Then be sure to show, not tell, what it is they're feeling.

2) Think/tell the story in first person - This helps me a lot. I will tell the story as though I am the POV character. As if they were journaling. Your characters are not going to lie to themselves.

3) Remember that your characters' past experiences shape them. How do the things they see, hear, smell and touch affect them based on those experiences? Example: Two people can enter a blue room. The first person can think it's the most beautiful room they've ever seen. The second person, who perhaps grew up in a less-than-ideal home where all the walls were painted blue, is going to think it's the ugliest, most depressing room they've ever seen.

4) Use strong, descriptive word choices. There's a difference between walked, strolled, and trudged. Which one best suits the scene?

You have to know your characters to get into their heads. That means you have to dig. And as Liz Curtis Higgs shared last year at ACFW, digging isn't always fun. Matter of fact, it's hard. It may take you someplace you don't want to go. But to do justice to your characters, your story, and to touch your readers, you have to dig.

Now it's your turn. What can you add to this list? What helps you portray your characters better? Do you have a special trick you like to use? Tell us about it.


  1. Great topic, Mindy! One thing I've heard of doing but haven't tried, is to do like you say in #2--to tell the story in first person. I've heard of people who actually write the whole story in 1st person, then go back and put it in 3rd person. That's a method that can help you stay in deep pov.

    I love writing in deep pov. Actually, I love writing in 1st person! But for a first sale to Steeple Hill, they prefer 3rd, so I've been using it on my wip. After writing my last mss in 1st person it took some adjusting to get back into 3rd person (my first 3 manuscripts were written in 3rd person, though).


  2. Thanks for sharing Mindy. I was one of those folks who gets stumped on when to italicize and not. Now that I'm on Revision 16A of my WIP (don't ask what the A on the 16 is (LOL!)) I'm not italicizing.

    I like that idea of journaling in the character's 1st person POV. May have to try that one next time I get stumped.

  3. I love writing in first person. Love it. I thought about doing something for the new ms I've started. I think I'm going to create two blogs--one for my hero and one for my heroine--but I don't want it to take up too much time..so I"m still debating.
    Any thoughts?
    And Mindy, great post. Deep POV is something we can always have instruction on.

  4. Great post Mindy! I appreciate your clarity in teaching.