Saturday, February 16, 2008

Deep Point of View Killers

Recently Carolina Christian Writers voted on upcoming writing topics to cover. Most everyone agreed they wanted to learn more about Deep Point of View and Showing, Not Telling. These two areas creep into a writer's work more than any other problems--even for experienced writers. That's why there are plenty of writing classes and written material on this topic.

If even experienced, published writers struggle with this, how then do beginners and intermediate writers hope to accomplish it? For me, I could recognize it in someone else's writing, not while I was in the process of writing my own manuscripts, or until someone pointed it out to me in the editing/critiquing process.

Writing in deep point of view requires the author to become the character. Interject all the senses, what that character is feeling, seeing, smelling, hearing, or tasting as is appropriate to the scene.

I've picked out a few "red flag" key words to spot during the editing process. These words are not always a problem, you need to pay attention to the context of how it is used in the structure of the sentence. Usually if the author is describing a character's emotion, trying to show an attitude, or is building sensory in a scene, that is when these words are "red flags". Therefore, don't go through someone's manuscript and highlight every use of these words. There are times when they should be used. (BTW - This is by no means a complete list.)

"Red Flag" Key Words
with, in, of, seemed, appeared, looked, thought, felt, saw, could, began, started, realized, brought, tried, from, heard.

Sometimes it's choosing a stronger verb to reflect a character's emotion or action and rephrasing a sentence. Below are a few examples of edits in my own work.

The stallion’s labored breathing sounded nearer, and she realized how fleeting an escape attempt would be. The dark rider would soon overtake them.

The stallion’s labored breathing almost pulsed down her back. Her skin crawled with tiny prickles. The dark rider would soon overtake them.

Twigs cracked beneath the weight of their footsteps. The sounds of the night were prevalent around them and she crouched close to his back to avoid the leaves and limbs he shoved aside. They reached a small brook and he motioned for her to kneel beside him.

Twigs cracked beneath the weight of their footsteps. An owl hooted in the distance. A small animal shifted and darted through the leaves. She wondered if it was a rabbit. Crickets sang around them. Akira rubbed her arms in discomfort, and crouched close to his back to avoid the leaves and limbs he shoved aside. They reached the brook and he motioned for her to kneel beside him.

A muffled sound from her brought Bryce’s head up. He studied her feminine form under the moonlight. Her hair sprawled out over her arms almost looked silver under the moon. He heard her sigh and listened to the shuffle of her restless movement.

A muffled sound brought Bryce’s head up. He studied Akira’s feminine form under the moonlight. Her hair sprawled over her arms like silver ribbons. She sighed uncomfortably and shuffled around, restless.


  1. You're right Jenn, it's easier to pick up things in other people's work than your own. Is everyone like that?

    Thanks for giving some examples, which are very good exerpts I'd like to add.

  2. I difinitely saw improvement, Jenn. It's interesting to see the the before and after side by side. I don't usually see that because I do a lot of that work on the computer, so the "before" passage goes away. Thanks for sharing, and for sharing your list of words to look for.

    I always get a twinge of guilt when I use the words feel and felt. Like they're bad words! LOL And it's because they usually are telling words. It's one I need to carefully look for. Especially while revising when I'm not trying to rush forward with my momentum.

    I never use "wonder" or "realized" anymore because they put the reader one step away from the characters with the author intrusion.

    But good ol' feel and felt, they're still plaguing me! :) And they're harder to fix--at least for me.

    Many years ago, I took an online class about POV, and it was so, so helpful. It was called Creating The Fictional Dream, but I'm at a loss for the teachers name. I just looked for her website, and it's not there any more.

  3. Deep POV is one of my favorite topics in writing. Though often times I don't find I'm writing it as deeply as I could. Like you say, it means becoming the character. To do that, you have to make sure you know your character very well. If I'm not in the right frame of mind I have a hard time, too. But without deep POV, you can't incite the emotion from your reader. Great examples, Jenn.

  4. I do my edits on the computer, but I like to save with a new name. That way if I take out a scene and decide later I want to put it back in, maybe somewhere else, I have something to work with. It's also helping me see where I'm improving. It's a way to plot my progress.

    Deep POV is also one of my favorite topics. If you concentrate on the technique, it eliminates a lot of other problems such as show/don't tell, strong verb replacement, cutting out fatty words that don't add meat to the story, action followed by reaction, appropriate phrasing, etc.