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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Digging into Deep POV (Part I)

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor 

I. Point of View ElementsA. What is POV?Point of view is the viewpoint or perspective of how a story or event is told. For writing purposes, it’s whose head you're writing in--whose emotions and feelings you're letting us experience.
B. Types of POV1) Omniscent POV – This is the author's POV since it is the all-knowing perspective. Nothing is unknown or hidden. When an author has been writing in a character's POV and suddenly slips in a sentence or two that only the author could have known, this is often called Author Intrusion.

Example: Little did Ben know that today's events would change his life forever.
2) First Person POV - One person's personal perspective or experience. The author uses key words such as "I" or "my" or "me" to tell the story. It reads like an autobiography.

Example: His words cut me to the core, until my insides trembled and despair overwhelmed me.
3) Third Person POV - Told through another person's perspective. The author often uses the character's name, or key words such as "she" or "he". This POV is most in fiction and allows a smoother transition from one character's POV to another character's POV.

Example: His words cut Cindy to the core, until her insides trembled and despair overwhelmed her.
C. Head-Hopping
Head-hopping is when you start a scene in a character's POV and within the same scene you switch to another character's POV without a scene break. It's best to indicate a scene break with # # # signs. Editors and contests often do not allow specialized symbols.

Note: If you are a huge author with a proven track record and millions of books sold under your penmanship, then most likely you could get away with head-hopping as several of the "big-name" authors do. However, if you are a new author or a midlist author, you aren't likely going to get away with it. Therefore, you will have to play by the "no head-hopping" rule until you make it big.

D. What is Deep POV?
Deep POV is telling a story in such a way that the reader's emotions are engaged in the character's thoughts and perspective. The reader essentially sees, hears, speaks, tastes, and feels what the character experiences. The character is real to the reader. And the reader cares about the character. The reader becomes part of the story and connects to the character.
E. Why Use Deep POV?Using deep POV allows the reader to experience the story, instead having someone tell them the story. It ties emotion to action and reactions, and connects the current action to what the character is thinking. In deep POV, a character doesn't hide secrets from himself.

II. Choosing the POV Character

A. Always Begin in the Main Character's POV
Readers usually identify with the first character as the main character. If you don't do this, readers feel disconnected from your characters and have a harder time feeling engaged in the story. They may feel lost and confused. If they get too frustrated, they won't finish your book, recommend your book, or read future books you’ve written.

B. Using Multiple POVs
You can write in more than one POV, but never head-hop. Set a section break before switching POV characters. A general rule is to keep your POV characters to no more than 4-5 different characters throughout the whole book. Make sure your main character has the most POV scenes.
C. Choose the Character with the Most RiskWhen you sit down to write a new scene, consider your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflict (GMC). Decide who in the scene will have the most risk. This is whose POV you should use in this particular scene.

D. Remember Your Readership
Choose a character your target audience will best understand. For instance, if you are targeting a junior audience, your main character wouldn't be a 40-year-old male. You would probably choose a 12-year-old.
E. Using Secondary CharactersThere are limited times you might want to write a scene in a secondary character's POV. It could be to reveal the villain's goal or motive, or when a secondary character is playing a pivotal role in the story.

In a few days I'll post Part II of this series, which covers Courting your Characters and Deep POV Techniques.


I love it when deep POV is used. Headhopping drives me nuts, but I still see it used from time to time. Great post!

Little did he know...
My all time favorite saying!! Love it. Love the movie
I would love to write omniscient but for now I need to stick to those darn rules.
Little did she know...
Ha. Couldn't resist!

I've found I'm most comfortable with 1st person POV, because my writing is stronger looking from the inside out of my character, rather than standing above everyone telling a story. I tend to write from emotions, so that is why I find it so much easier to find my voice. My concern is I've been told 1st person is a harder sell. Do you have any experience or comments whether that is true?

Phantom's Student, Thanks for stopping by my blog and visiting my website. I appreciate your comment on my Guestbook. I checked out your Phantom website and it's very interesting. I love the music.

In regard to your question about 1st or 3rd person POV, I think it depends on the publisher and the genre. In romance, it is harder to sell a 1st person story, but not impossible. Most romance novels are in 3rd person. However, there are books in women's fiction, fantasy, and suspence that are written in 1st person. I also believe it depends on the publisher and editor.

In the CBA market one 1st person romance that comes to mind is a Regency historical, "Not For All the Tea in China" by Jane Orcutt. Another women's fiction book I've read is, "A Bigger Life" by Annette Smith.

Hope this helps.