Deep POV: How Do You Do It? When Should You Do It?

“365::115 – write” by Sarah Reid

To recap: As part of the In Your Write Mind Workshop I attended in July at Seton Hill University, I gave an hour-long class on Deep Point of View. I thought I might as well turn the class into a series of blog posts. This is the fourth and last one.

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Deep Point of View: How Do You Do It? When Should You Do it?

I’ve included both of these questions into one post, as the latter is actually fairly easy to explain. But let’s start with some pointers on how to achieve Deep POV.

How Do You Do It?

So how the heck do you achieve a deep limited third POV? Well, the techniques used generally revolve around those of voice and narrator observation.

Don’t just report thoughts and feelings, descend into the character

Rather than report on emotions (i.e., he was angry, he was scared) show them. Yes, it’s the old show don’t tell. But it’s true. Deep POV is the ultimate in showing. Use action, thought, and perception to show emotion and feelings. When you’re annoyed, it colors your whole perception of the world. Everyone on the damn road is too damn slow and every traffic light is out to get you. Show that.

Thoughts and perceptions should be that of the character

Be aware of how the character perceives the world. Someone from Florida will have a very different reaction to being outside on a 50 F day than someone from Alaska. Someone who grew up in the city will see a crowd differently than someone who grew up in a town of 500 people. Try to limit first person italicized thought, if possible. The change in POV and the visual change in the font can jar a reader out of the character’s head. Rather than: It is a good day to die, he thought. Try: It was a good day to die.

Use terminology, phrasing, syntax, grammar that the character uses

The narration, within reason, should use the same voice as the character, meaning that the syntax and word choice should be words the character would use. Consider life experience and age: word usage will differ depending on age, social status, education level, etc. Also, it’s fine to bend grammar rules a bit (i.e., Some amount of sentence fragments are okay, as we don’t talk and think in complete sentences all the time.)

Avoid Filtering

Filtering is just that—filtering the character’s perceptions through the narrator. That is, we’re watching the narrator perceive things rather than perceiving them through the narrator. Filtering is one of those phrases people throw around quite a bit, so I’ve included some examples with and without filtering.

Example with filtering:

She saw the car swerve off the road and head straight for her. She dodged away. “God,” she thought, “I could have been killed!”

Example without filtering:

In a hail of gravel, the car careered off the road and bore down. She threw herself to one side as hot air and metal whooshed passed. God, she could have been killed!

Some phrases that indicate filtering include:

  • he noticed
  • she felt
  • she saw
  • he heard
  • she remembered
  • he knew
  • she looked
  • he decided
  • he thought
  • she wondered

Watch for any words that have the reader watching the character have an experience, rather than experiencing it through the character.

Another example of filtering:

When she turned to walk back to the car, she saw Joe leaning against the brick wall. He made her so angry. She knew he’d been such a jerk to Mary at the dance.

And without:

She turned to walk back to the car. Joe, that rotten bastard, lounged against the brick wall as if his stupid practical joke at the dance hadn’t caused Mary to burst into tears in front of the whole school. If only a meteorite would land on his head right now.

When Should You Use Deep POV?

Should you use Deep POV all the time, since it’s so highly sought after?


What! Why not?

Well, it’s grueling to both the reader and the writer to be that deep into a character all the time. And one of the reasons for writing in limited third person is the ability to pull back from the characters. Most books that use limited third person use an in-and-out level of penetration into the character, often pulling back at the beginnings of chapters and scenes to orient the readers. There’s nothing that says you have to write at only one level of penetration when writing third limited. Deep POV is one of the tools of limited third. Don’t forget to use the others, as well.

Remember, there are times in third person when telling (i.e., summarization) is necessary.

Okay, so when should you use Deep POV?

  • Moments when you want the reader to be close to a character
  • Highly emotional scenes
  • The black moment

Basically, you have to use your best judgement as an author and decide when you want the readers riding inside the skin of your character. Good luck!

Comments? Questions?

That’s the end of my very short blog series on Deep POV. I hope you’ve found it helpful.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them! I’ll do my best to answer or address them.

Categories: Deep POV

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3 thoughts on “Deep POV: How Do You Do It? When Should You Do It?

  1. Pingback: Deep POV: What it is, What it isn’t, and Why First isn’t Deep POV « Ann Laurel Kopchik

  2. Diane Carlisle

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your insight about the unreliability of a first person narrator was incredibly helpful to me. Really appreciated this post.

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