Posted On May 27, 2015 by Print This Post

Going Undercover with Deep POV by Heatherly Bell

What adds depth to your characters and pulls the reader into the story? Heatherly Bell explains the advantages of writing in deep POV. 

Great to have you with us, Heather! 

As an avid lifelong reader, for years I’ve long noticed a preference to certain authors but never understood why. Many readers are similar and can’t necessarily pinpoint what draws them into a story. I’d be willing to bet that most of the time it’s because the author has mastered the art of deep POV (point of view).

Deep POV puts us in the character’s head, so we can experience everything exactly as the protagonist does. It removes the fictional distance between the reader and the protagonist. Suddenly, we can’t help but care deeply when our heroine is stood up at the altar or when she loses her job. It feels like it just happened to us!

But if you had asked me about deep POV when I first started writing for publication, I’d have given you a blank stare. I’d have said that I didn’t know anything about that alphabet soup branch of the government. Deep POV – you mean like Jack Ryan from The Patriot Games? Not at all, I found out. However, “undercover” is not a bad way to think of POV.

Heatherly BellOver the years, I learned about first person POV, third person limited POV and omniscient POV. You’ll find plenty of articles on POV, but not as much on deep POV. I think that’s possibly because deep POV crosses over into characterization and even dialogue.

As the wonderful author Christie Craig says in her article on Deep POV:

Make sure that every word on the paper is filtered through the character’s thoughts, emotions, and senses.

Deep POV can be unique and distinctive and demonstrate who your character is at their core. It can be used in all elements of writing: narrative descriptions, dialogue, internal dialogue and emotional responses.

Here’s an example from one of my favorite authors Kristan Higgins in her book, The Perfect Match:

“Tom had already had one glass of whiskey and was working on the second when the front door opened, and his fiancée came in. That suit didn’t do anything for her perfectly acceptable figure (which was quite nice, now that he thought of it). Plain navy blue skirt and jacket, white shirt, distressingly sensible shoes. The little rat-dog’s head was visible in her purse.”

To me, this is a perfect example of using a narrative description threaded through deep POV. Tom is British and he “sounds” British to me in this excerpt. I doubt that this description would sound the same coming from anyone else but Tom Barlow, who is about to marry Honor to be able to stay in the United States.

With deep POV you can give each of your characters a unique “voice”. We’re obviously not going to hear the same dialogue Heatherly Bell_AnywhereWithYou_2500pxexpressed from an 80-year-old grandfather as we would from a 25-year-old woman. Neither will we “hear” the same internal thoughts and emotional responses.

Here are some before and after samples of POV:

BEFORE: He crept up the stairs, the creak of old wood threatening to wake the old girl. He could see the gun resting by her rocking chair.

AFTER: He crept up the stairs, hoping the creak of the old wood wouldn’t wake the old girl. For the love of God, was that a gun resting by her rocking chair? Maybe the wisest course of action would be to turn around and go back the way he’d come.

(I love this example, because the reaction to the gun by the chair will show you a lot about the individual character – and that reaction should be different based on if your character is a woman, or say, ex-military.)

BEFORE: Kristi sighed. His bored reaction was typical of every guy she’d ever met. He wouldn’t stick around for long now. She should never have told him the truth.

AFTER: Kristi sighed. His reaction seemed to register a ten on the boredom scale: are you still here? Typical. One of these days she’d learn to keep her mouth shut. She’d give the guy two, three days tops before he’d be long gone.

As with anything, there are exceptions. I’ve read many great books that don’t employ the use of deep POV, and still tell a wonderful story. Deep POV is just one of many tools available to us as writers.

Does deep POV draw you into a story or can you take it or leave it?




Genevieve Hannigan has loved her big brother’s best friend, Wallace Turlock, for as long as she can remember. When he never noticed her, she settled for Wallace 2.0. With her disastrous two month marriage behind her, Gen knows that nothing but the original Wallace will do. But G enevieve’s ex-husband is back in town with hopes to reconcile, and things are about to get complicated …


ANYWHERE WITH YOU – Kailey Robbins hears the news that Joe Hannigan has crashed his plane on a mushroom farm, all she wants is a second chance with the man she almost lost. But Kailey left Joe once before … can he trust that she means to stay forever this time?

ANYWHERE WITH YOU is the fourth book of Heatherly’s Starlight Hill series. It will be part of the boxed set Small Town Summer releasing July 14th with authors Terri Osburn, Jamie Farrell, Liz Flaherty, Regina Kyle, Amy Lamont, Stefanie London, Megan Ryder, and Rebecca Thomas.


Bio: When early onset stage fright dashed dreams of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status, Heatherly Bell tackled her first book in 2010, and now the people and voices that occupy her head refuse to leave. She no longer sings unless you count randomly bursting into song to annoy her children (and the dogs).

If she were not an author, Heatherly maintains she would be a detective and a criminal’s worst nightmare. She watches Dateline every Friday night and takes notes.

Heatherly lives in northern California with her family, including two beagles, one who can say ‘hello’ and the other who can feel a pea through several pillows. To learn more about Heatherly, visit her website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


What’s next? On Friday, May 29th, Laurie Schnebly Campbell presents: The Million-Dollar Apple 


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14 Responses to “Going Undercover with Deep POV by Heatherly Bell”

  1. Thank you for having me here today.

    Posted by Heatherly Bell | May 27, 2015, 10:25 am
  2. Something just clicked in my head today as you talk about why we prefer some authors over others. I have had such a struggle lately in the quest to find enjoyment in reading again, let alone writing. I can see now that a big part of it is finding the right depth of POV. It’s like having just enough salt in a stew. Amazing epiphany! Thanks!

    Posted by Lora Bailey | May 27, 2015, 11:13 am
    • Love the salt analogy Lora, I agree! One author I have gotten into lately for his depth of POV is Harlan Coben. I actually re-read his book ‘Hold Tight’ to try and learn how he does it.


      Posted by Nikki Weston | May 28, 2015, 6:28 pm
  3. I love reading scenes in Deep POV. I wish I was better at WRITING them. Thanks for a very helpful post!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | May 27, 2015, 1:49 pm
  4. Hola Heather!

    You’ll find me in the Deep POV cheering section.

    It gives the author an opportunity to slip in backstory and drop hints about the character that keeps the reader asking why and immersed in the story.

    I’m one of those readers who appreciate the small details about a character, like a fear of spiders or a secret Frito addiction. Some readers/writers may feel these details don’t propel the story forward, but I think they enhance the character.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | May 27, 2015, 2:45 pm
    • Hi Jennifer,

      I agree, it’s the small almost imperceptible details that can snag my interest in the character, and it’s the deep POV that keeps me turning the page.

      I like your point about that all-important question ‘why’, so important to a story.


      Posted by Nikki Weston | May 28, 2015, 6:30 pm
  5. A great post, Heatherly, and thanks for the shout-out!

    Posted by Liz Flaherty | May 27, 2015, 3:48 pm
  6. I’m a big fan of novels that use deep POV. I love when an author gets it right and you feel like you’re experiencing everything right along with a character, as well as getting a real sense of who they are. As a writer, it’s an area I’m continually working on.

    Great post, Heatherly! Thanks!

    Posted by Amy Lamont | May 27, 2015, 6:14 pm
    • I agree Amy, it’s a craft area that I’ve gotten passionate about the last few years. Like a secret tool I’ve discovered and can’t get enough of!

      Best to you – Nikki.

      Posted by Nikki Weston | May 28, 2015, 6:25 pm
  7. I love reading about characters in deep POV. It pulls you right in. POV is hard to explain and even harder to write in, but you have done a great job of making it clear. Great post! Thanks!

    Posted by Patricia Marshall | May 27, 2015, 6:58 pm
  8. Hey guys!

    Absolutely no question – it’s Deep all the way for this reader! For me, it makes the difference between a so-so read and a WOWSAS one! The quiet private thoughts of a character, his feelings, fears, hopes… all shared intimately with me right there in his head and heart.

    Yep! Nothing like going Deep!

    Love your article Heatherly, best for now.

    Nikki Weston.

    Posted by Nikki Weston | May 28, 2015, 6:23 pm
  9. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    Posted by Jackie Layton | May 29, 2015, 5:58 am
  10. I agree with the comments above, deep POV can make a book go from good to great. I look forward to reading an author whose stories bring me completely in. Nikki mentioned reading Harlan Coben and I agree, his books are very well crafted, with POV so deep that I feel like I’m inside the character’s head. Thank goodness there are several authors who can do this well!

    Posted by Sherry Weddle | February 13, 2016, 9:26 pm

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