Posted On September 5, 2012 by Print This Post

Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV – Jill Elizabeth Nelson shows us how!

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.

More Examples

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.

  1. Physical effects on the body that can be described
  2. Thoughts in keeping with that particular emotion
  3. 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

Visit Jill on the web at: or look her up on Facebook: or Twitter:!/JillElizNelson.

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24 Responses to “Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV – Jill Elizabeth Nelson shows us how!”

  1. Morning Jill!

    I have to say, I’m a huge fan of your book, and thanks to Lori Wilde for pointing me in your direction! I’m on my fourth reading now, and am hoping it will just osmose into my brain. =)

    The best part is all of the examples you give – they help you actually SEE the difference between POV and deep POV – that really helped me start to understand. Love the book!

    Here’s my try – Annoyed, Heidi slammed the drawer.

    Heidi slapped the keys into the drawer and slammed it shut.


    Thanks for posting with us today, Jill!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | September 5, 2012, 6:01 am
  2. Nice job, Carrie! Rather than being TOLD what the character is feeling, the reader gets to EXPERIENCE the emotion through Heidi’s actions.

    Posted by Jill Elizabeth Nelson | September 5, 2012, 6:05 am
  3. Carrie – Thanks so much for sharing Jill’s book with us. I just ordered it! Jill – I hope you’ll come back to go over more aspects of Deep POV with us. These examples were really helpful but I have a way to go yet.

    I’m not very confident about tackling your examples, but I’ll give it a shot:

    1) Annoyance powered Heidi’s hand. The drawer cracked like a gunshot with the force of her shove.

    2) The outing appealed to me about as much as an afternoon spent listening to my mother rant about my housekeeping habits.

    3) My palms were slippery with sweat and my heart raced, miming a Keith Moon drum solo. Fear? I’d never admit to being afraid, but if this wasn’t fear, it was an incipient heart attack.

    4) Heavy with the weight of his white hot rage, his foot stomped the accelerator to the floor. Fueled by anger, the car balanced on two wheels as he made the turn, good sense laid waste like the shreds of rubber scattered on the road.

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | September 5, 2012, 8:17 am
    • Hi, Becke:

      Love your number two answer, and number three was good Deep POV also. The specific exercise was to avoid name the emotion, which you do in number three, but you do it in such a way that it sounds exactly like thoughts going through the character’s head. This is the whole idea behind Deep POV.

      In number one, you name the annoyance. Check out Patricia’s take on the sentence for an example of staying “deep” with the POV. Number four is kind of a bugaboo problem for many. I have to sign off now and head back to the day job, but I’ll pop in later with an example of how to pull it off in Deep POV. A solution is also given in my book.

      Thanks so much for participating!

      Posted by Jill Elizabeth Nelson | September 5, 2012, 12:02 pm
  4. Okay, clearly I haven’t read the book yet. Next time I’ll do better!

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | September 5, 2012, 8:18 am
  5. I have this book, it’s great! Planning to read it a few more times, too.

    Posted by Laurie Evans | September 5, 2012, 9:53 am
  6. I really enjoyed this book. I bought it a month ago and loved using it while doing my edits. I’m still trying to master the deep POV skill. Do you teach workshops on this, Jill?

    Posted by Mercy | September 5, 2012, 9:58 am
    • So glad to hear the book has been helpful to you. Yes, I teach workshops on this subject, among others, though Deep POV is a passion with me. Earlier this year, I taught a month-long, on-line Deep POV class through Savvy Authors. I have a class called the Art of the Edit coming up on October 1 through Savvy Authors. I also teach on-line and in person when mutual arrangements are made with a group.

      Posted by Jill Elizabeth Nelson | September 5, 2012, 3:25 pm
  7. Great post! I’ve been trying not to name emotions in my WIP, but sometimes they creep in on the sly. It’s a lot easier when someone points out the problems, so I really appreciate when my crit partners flag the telling for me.

    Here is my go on the exercise:

    1. Heidi slammed the drawer and the necklaces hanging on the stand on top of the dresser jingled. Why couldn’t Max just ask for money if he was broke again?

    2. I hung up the phone and collapsed on the couch. If Bob wasn’t going, it seemed pointless to drive two hours to get to the beach.

    3. My eyes were wide open now. That creaking sound was not part of my dream. I dried my hands on the pillowcase and listened — but it was hard to hear anything through the racket my heart was making.

    4. He took the turn faster than good sense allowed and heard the tires screech. He should try not to kiss a tree — that would sure top being slapped on the dance floor.

    Posted by Patricia Moussatche | September 5, 2012, 10:15 am
    • Overall strong responses that meet the criteria of not naming the emotion. A few sensory tells crept in, but that’s a separate Deep POV lesson. FYI to all, guard against over-thinking Deep POV. It’s a great technique for delivering that powerful emotional experience to the reader, but master it as a tool, don’t let it become a slave-master. 🙂

      Posted by Jill Elizabeth Nelson | September 5, 2012, 3:39 pm
  8. Hi, Jill. Terrific post! Love it. Sometimes I find that I write whatever the emotion is (anger, fear, blah, blah) for the first draft and then I go through and see if I can make it more visceral. It takes the pressure off when writing the first draft! LOL.

    Here’s my try:

    Heidi stared at the piece-of-crap drawer, her fingers twitching to rip that sucker apart.

    Thanks for being here!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | September 5, 2012, 11:33 am
    • Absolutely, Adrienne. Edits are a good time to buff up that Deep POV.

      Kudos! Your response succeeds in conveying emotion without naming it. The parenthetical “ing” phrase in the second half of the sentence doesn’t have that “inside the head” feel. Other Deep POV techniques may show you what to do with that.

      Posted by Jill Elizabeth Nelson | September 5, 2012, 5:39 pm
  9. Hi Jill,

    This is great. While we know about show don’t tell, we laways need a reminder.

    Thanks for the practice sentences! I love reading everyone’s deep POV twist on the practice sentences.

    Going to check out your book. Thanks for being with us today.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | September 5, 2012, 12:17 pm
  10. 1. Heidi slammed the drawer, its wood cracking against cabinet base. Couldn’t he put the silverware away correctly, just once?

    2. He wouldn’t be in attendance? I wilted like last week’s cabbage.

    3. Sweat covered my palms. My heart raced. Where could I hide?

    4. He cornered the car around the hairpin curve, its tires hanging on by a thread. His blood sizzled hotter than the burning tires.

    Posted by PatriciaW | September 5, 2012, 12:40 pm
  11. Question: when is Deep POV too much?

    I think most authors would agree there are times when telling is okay in writing. Is putting everything into deep POV ever too much, too intense for the reader? I know when I’m reading, especially in romance, the use of deep POV sometimes feels forced or contrived, over the top and unnecessary. I can tell the author worked hard to craft a particular sentence. Maybe it’s the particular similies/metaphors that are used, but it’s almost like purple prose. Red (for romance) prose? I dunno but it’s jarring.

    Posted by PatriciaW | September 5, 2012, 12:45 pm
    • Excellent question, Patricia. There is absolutely a time to revert to telling in our stories. Rhythm and balance is what it’s all about. As I mentioned to Patricia M above, Deep POV is a great technique for delivering that powerful emotional experience to the reader, but master it as a tool, don’t let it become a slave-master.

      Posted by Jill Elizabeth Nelson | September 5, 2012, 5:42 pm
  12. Hello Jill,

    I am a relatively new literary fiction writer. However, I have been writing screenplays professionally for 15 years and I’m very interested in learning as much as I can about all the different techniques of Deep POV in a novel. I truly believe the key to everything creative is talent, but one must absolutely master the rules of the craft if one is going to achieve greatness.

    That is why I am so glad I stumbled onto your book– Rivet Your Readers With Deep POV!!! It is very insightful and informative. I do however have a question, maybe you can help me with.

    In your book, wiith regard to third person (single POV) you wrote that– “a drawback of using this is the limitation in what can be shown “on stage”. (Also, “events that happen outside the POVC’s experience must either be told to him by another character or discovered by that character in some other way. Fortunately, there are many entertaining and engrossing approaches to deliver this “off-screen” information. We will look at some of these techniques as part of our deep POV lessons later in the handbook”).

    I looked through Deep POV lessons for some approaches to deliver this “Off-screen” information. But sadly, I didn’t find any. :((

    Could I have missed it?

    I was wondering if you could please list some approaches to revealing off screen information? (I am desperately searching for ways to do this correctly)

    Also, I am writing a novel and I was wondering if you offered editing services, or would be able to point me in the direction of your “awesome editor” who helped you learn these techniques. I am a fiend for knowledge and I thrive on learning and mastering technique.

    Thank you so much for your time on the matter.

    Richard Recco

    Posted by richard | November 26, 2012, 5:30 pm
    • Hi, Richard:

      Thanks for your passion to master your craft. Very necessary and refreshing. I’m tickled if my little handbook can help you on your journey.

      You are correct that I don’t directly address imparting off-screen information in the body of the lessons, primarily because this aspect of craft is only tangentially related to Deep POV. However, ways and means to convey to the reader (and the character) information outside of the immediate scene is contained in the lesson examples, though I don’t point them out as such. Conveying off-screen information is an interesting subject, though, and likely deserves its own booklet or chapter(s) within a larger book. Or perhaps if I issue a second edition of Rivet, I will spend a little more deliberate time on the subject since it has bearing on POV in general–not so much specifically on Deep POV.

      I haven’t taken on editorial projects and don’t see myself doing so at this time. My plate is overflowing at the moment, but I’m honored you asked. 🙂

      I’m not sure my editor/mentor is taking freelance clients either. But here is her web address:

      As far as listing approaches for conveying off-screen information to a character, here are a few: dialogue with another character (as long as the conversation isn’t an obvious ploy used only for that purpose); something the character reads, like a letter or a newspaper or a diary; something a character sees, like a news broadcast; a chance encounter; eavesdropping; a dream or a vision, if writing in a genre that allows for such; an off-hand comment by a minor character that has larger meaning to the major character; an item missing, out of place, or added in a setting the main character knows well, allowing the character to deduce something that occurred “off-screen”. There are more ways and means, but my brain is ready to call it a night.

      My best to you in your endeavors. Write on!

      Posted by Jill Elizabeth Nelson | November 26, 2012, 10:46 pm


  1. […] a recent article on Romance University by Nelson on mastering deep POV here. Then snag your copy of Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View here. It’s eye-opening, […]

  2. […] be the most committed group of people to educating the masses in how to write. Anyway, the post was Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV. It mentioned a book by Jill Elizabeth Nelson called (go figure) Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point […]

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