A few weeks ago, I downloaded a wonderful book called Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV by Jill Elizabeth Nelson – and immediately fell in love! I’m now on my third reading – and planning on a fourth, fifth and sixth! Jill explores and more importantly gives EXAMPLES and exercises of how to turn an average paragraph into something spectacular by using Deep POV – read on!
Mastering Deep Point of View transformed my writing. While it isn’t possible to share the entire topic in a single article, I will convey a condensed version of one aspect of material that I normally teach over the course of several hours. I have also placed the comprehensive body of this teaching into a brief handbook with the same title as this article, Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View.
This skill was imparted to me by the first professional editor who worked with me. She helped me with substantive edits of my debut novel, Reluctant Burglar. After she finished explaining and demonstrating the techniques that she wanted me to apply to my manuscript, I saw what a difference they made to the story. Then I had to ask myself why the publisher had bothered to buy the raw manuscript in the first place.
Name That Feeling – Not!
In order for our readers to live inside a character’s head, it’s vital that readers feel what the character feels as if they are living inside the character’s head. But contrary to expectation—and the way many of us write—naming the emotion the character feels accomplishes the opposite of Deep POV. Bopping our readers over the head with a bald statement that the character “feels” this or that holds the reader at arm’s length and creates narrative distance (otherwise known as author intrusion) by telling, rather than showing.
Example is one of the best teachers, so study the before (telling) and after (Deep POV) samples below. The first one is from Reluctant Burglar, the novel my editor-extraordinaire helped me to transform.
Before: (my raw manuscript)
Tony closed his phone, frustration and fury surging through him.
What’s wrong with this? Surging is a lovely, strong verb, isn’t it? Yes and no. Any “ing” version of a verb waters down its power, but I’ve compounded the issue by “telling” the reader how Tony feels, rather than creating a word picture that “shows” the emotion in power-house Deep POV.
After: (the published version)
Tony slapped the phone shut. If steam could escape out his pores, he’d be a toxic cloud.
Whoo-hoo! Now we’re right there inside the character. No need to name the emotion. We feel that frustration and fury in our pores too.
In the examples below, note how the statement of emotion in the “Before” version is supported by a stout verb, and yet the “After” Deep POV example emerges more powerful and emotionally evocative.
Joy rocketed through Adrienne.
A grin the size of the big, blue sky stretched Adrienne’s lips. If her feet met the sidewalk, they sure didn’t know it.
* * * * * * *
Despair tugged at Jenny’s heart.
Jenny wilted into her chair. What was the point of trying to defend herself?
* * * * * * *
Hot jealousy flashed through me.
Heat boiled my insides. If that wimp could win a trophy, where was mine?
The Effects of Emotion
Do you see how the prose is enriched by refusing to dictate to the reader what the POV character feels? How often do we actually think in our heads, “I feel angry right now”? Or, “I’m irritated”? No, we don’t name the emotion; we simply feel it. However, emotion has several effects that the Deep POV writer can capitalize on in order to convey the feeling without naming it.
- Physical effects on the body that can be described
- Thoughts in keeping with that particular emotion
- Actions and behaviors
In the example above regarding the emotion of jealousy, heat is a typical physical effect of the emotion of jealousy, so I have used it as part of the illustration of that emotion. Then I followed the physical effect with a thought in Deep POV narrative that conveys the emotion without coming right out and saying that the character is jealous.
In the example above regarding the emotion of despair, the character’s collapse into the chair is an action and behavior that illustrates what she feels. Her thought, posed as a Deep POV question, reinforces and clarifies the sense of hopelessness.
In the example above regarding the emotion of joy, the reader walks along inside Adrienne as her body language and sensory experiences illustrate her feelings.
A Little Practice for You
Below are some “telling” sentences for you to practice transforming into dazzling Deep POV.
1. Annoyed, Heidi slammed the drawer.
2. Disappointment dulled my enthusiasm for the outing.
3. Fear caused my palms to sweat and my heart-rate to soar.
4. He took the turn faster than good sense allowed, anger lashing him onward.
I’ve only been able to cover a single aspect of writing in Deep POV in this article, but hopefully I’ve given you a valuable nugget to mull over and apply. We haven’t touched on the thought tells, prepositional tells, or sensory tells that Deep POV will eliminate. Nor have we talked about aspects of what Deep POV is and what it’s not.
These topics and more are covered in-depth, complete with examples and hands-on exercises in my handbook, Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View.
RU Writers – let’s see how you turn some of the above examples from dull to dazzling!
Join us on Friday for author Loucinda McGary!
Award-winning author and writing teacher, Jill Elizabeth Nelson, writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith. Jill is a popular speaker for conferences, writers groups, library associations, and civic and church groups. She delights to bring the “Ahah! Moment” to her students as they make new skills their own. Her handbook for writers, Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, is now available at http://amzn.to/IvQTkj.
Visit Jill on the web at: www.jillelizabethnelson.com or look her up on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JillElizabethNelson.Author or Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/JillElizNelson.
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