Posted On September 13, 2017 by Print This Post

Incorporating Deep POV into our writing… and why do we care? by Nancy Stopper

Please welcome author NANCY STOPPER – this is her debut visit to Romance University!

We’ve all heard the mantra “Show, Don’t Tell”. This is what every author is told they need to do in order to achieve deep POV. When I first started writing, I researched, read internet articles by recognized authors in the industry and in my genre, and immersed myself in the concept of deep POV and “show vs. tell”.

What does “Show, Don’t Tell” mean anyway? On the surface, it means that an author should “show” the reader what is happening instead of “telling” them. Okay, that makes sense. But the reality is so much more. Articles often give me a laundry list of things to do to “show, don’t tell” and deepen POV. That’s great, my type A personality loves checklists. Here are some common tasks that can be done to deepen POV:

  • Show, don’t tell. Describe a scene instead of telling the reader what happened.
  • Remove “was” verbs and write in active voice.
  • Remove “-ly” adverbs and use strong verbs.
  • Remove all shallowing words, such as: thought, felt, wondered, knew, realized, etc.

Let’s look at some examples of how to take individual sentences or passages and employing the above techniques to deepen the POV.

SHOW, DON’T TELL:

Shallow POV: The beautiful woman walked across the room. (In this sentence, the author told the reader that the woman was beautiful).

Deep POV: Her honey-blonde hair fell in huge waves over her shoulders, framing her heart-shaped face. Her hips swayed as she strode across the room. (In this passage, the author describes the woman’s attributes – her wavy, blonde hair and her hips swaying – in a way that the reader can picture this woman as she walks across the room).

 

 

REMOVE “WAS” VERBS AND WRITE IN ACTIVE VOICE:

Shallow POV: She was cold. (The author told the reader that the character was cold)

Deep POV: The crisp air cut across her cheeks, leaving a frozen path in its wake. The pain in her fingertips and toes increased with each minute she remained in the blinding snow with nothing but a light coat. (The author described cold in the context of the scene. If the reader has ever been out in a snowstorm, they’ve likely experienced the feelings that the character did in this scene and have drawn the conclusion that the character is cold without being told.)

REMOVE -LY ADVERBS AND USE STRONG VERBS:

Shallow POV: The fireman ran quickly across the yard.

Deep POV: He dashed across the yard -or- he hurried across the yard -or- he darted across the yard. (ran quickly was replaced by dashed or hurried or darted. Notice in using these three different stronger verbs, three different feelings can be evoked).

REMOVE SHALLOWING WORDS:

Shallow POV: He wondered what she was thinking.

Deep POV: What was she thinking?

Shallow POV: He thought she was being ridiculous.

Deep POV: She was being ridiculous.

Removing shallowing words is one of the easiest ways to deepen POV. Imagine you are having a conversation with a friend. While you’re sitting there with your friend, are you thinking “I think she’s being ridiculous” or are you thinking in your brain “She’s being ridiculous”? That slight difference deepens the POV of those sentences.

In my own manuscript, I worked scene after scene, chapter after chapter, to deepen my POV. I went through these steps and strengthened my sentences and that resulted in scenes with no shallow words, no “was” verbs, no -ly adverbs. There were times that I hit the mark, and others that my scenes were still shallow. And I didn’t understand why. Because I still didn’t quite get it. I was going through the motions and the mechanics of deepening the language, but I still wasn’t creating the deep experience for the reader.

What was missing?

Writing in deep POV is about becoming the character in that scene. It’s stepping into the shoes of the character and experiencing the scene as that character. But more than that, it’s about what that character thinks and feels about what is happening in front of them. So, the author can describe, in great detail, what is happening in a scene from the aspect of the POV character but unless we, the reader, are understanding how the action in that scene affects the character on an emotional level, we haven’t really gotten deep into that character’s POV. By the end of a scene in deep POV, the reader should feel like they experienced the event with the POV character and have felt the same range of emotions as the POV character.

As authors, we should seek to tell the story as though it is happening to the reader, in the context of the POV character, with the entire range of experience and emotions that character is feeling.

Let’s take the examples from above and add the feelings and emotions of the character experiencing the scene:

Example 1: Her honey-blonde hair fell in huge waves over her shoulders, framing her heart-shaped face. Her hips swayed as she strode across the room. (The reader now knows a woman walked across the room and some of her characteristics. But what do we know about that person who watched her cross the room? Why are they noticing this woman?)

Revised Example 1: Her honey-blonde hair fell in huge waves over her shoulders, framing her heart-shaped face. He hadn’t seen hair like that since his childhood crush, the sweet girl he spied across the playground the first day of third grade. He fell in love with Sarah Lawson that day, her sweet smile calming the nerves of the awkward new boy in town. And he hadn’t been in love again since.

What changed? The first sentence is the same. But after the POV character observed the woman’s hair, he had a thought. The hair reminded him of a young girl he knew growing up and it triggered a memory. How many times have we seen someone and been reminded of a happy memory of a previous time? In the subsequent sentences, the POV character remembers his childhood crush. As a reader, now I don’t just know that an attractive woman crossed the room (and I didn’t tell the reader she was attractive, the reader came to this conclusion by the description by the POV character), but I know a bit more about the POV character and his childhood… and the fact that he hasn’t been in love since he was a child. As a reader, what do you expect to happen next? You never know, but imagine if this woman turns around and it IS Sarah Lawson? Let’s take this passage a bit further

He couldn’t take his eyes off her rounded hips as she strode across the room. His heart beat a little faster and sweat beaded on his upper lip. He hadn’t reacted this way around a woman since, well, forever. And then she spun around. His breath caught in his chest and his heart raced. It couldn’t be. He hadn’t laid eyes on the object of his affection since they both crossed the stage on their last day of high school. Yet there she was, standing across the room. Smiling at him.

What are you feeling now? Are you imagining your own childhood crush and seeing that person again now? Are you reminded of the feeling of young love, how your entire world revolved around that other person? That is deep POV. In the entire passage, there are only three sentences that talk about the action of the scene. The rest are the POV character’s thoughts and feelings about what is happening in front of him.

Let’s look at another example and deepen it by adding the POV character’s thoughts and emotions:

Example 2: The crisp air cut across her cheeks, leaving a frozen path in its wake. The pain in her fingertips and toes increased with each minute she remained in the blinding snow with nothing but a light coat. (This passage is descriptive and does a good job of describing what she is experiencing, but what is she feeling?)

Revised Example 2: The crisp air cut across her cheeks, leaving a frozen path in its wake. If only she had a scarf, she could wrap it around her neck, covering the delicate skin that was exposed to the elements. The pain in her fingertips and toes increased with each minute she remained in the blinding snow. What she wouldn’t give for a pair of gloves. Or a heavy coat with pockets. Or an attractive man to keep her warm. Shoot, Derek was probably tucked safely in his house, stretched out in front of a crackling fire. And here she was, trudging through the blowing snow while her car sat buried in a snowbank a half-mile behind her.

In this passage, the reader now understands why the character is trudging in the cold without a coat, hat and gloves. The reader also knows that she is thinking about Derek and how he’s probably warm while she isn’t. From this passage here, we don’t know who Derek is but perhaps they have just started a relationship and she was on her way to see him when she got stuck in the snow? Maybe they just had a big fight and she’s bitter about being stuck in the snow instead of curled up beside him. It’s all about the context and the emotions of the scene that bring the reader alongside the characters as they experience the story.

 

But why?

Hopefully these tricks and concepts help you as an author create a scene in deep POV. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of practice and revising.

So why do we care about deep POV? Why is so much emphasis put on deep POV?

Romance readers read to escape. They don’t just want to read about what is happening to someone else for a few hours a week. If that were the case, there are plenty of newspapers and news magazines where they can read about what is happening to other people. Readers of our novels want to immerse themselves someone else’s life for a few hours a week. They want to cry the tears of heartbreak, to laugh out loud at someone else’s awkward lives, to fall in love all over again.

Deep POV is the key to giving readers an immersive, emotional experience. By putting the reader in the shoes of the characters in our stories, the reader experiences not just the actions of the scenes, but the thoughts and emotions of that character. And for a short time, they are given the chance to escape their own lives and fall in love all over again.

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How have you struggled with deepening the POV in your scenes?

 

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Bio:

 

Nancy Stopper is an award-winning contemporary romance author whose contain strong women and sexy heroes that tug at your emotional heartstrings and leave you with a warm feeling that lingers long after the last page. Her favorite escape is small-town romance and even when set in a larger location, her books have that small-town feel. Her first novel, ONE LAST RISK, was a category finalist and winner in chapter-level RWA contests. InD’Tale Magazine said ONE LAST RISK is “A quick, heart-warming summer read, One Last Risk introduces a family of to-die-for heroes and town readers will all want to call their own.”

 

Nancy lives in Virginia with her husband, two of her three kids that are still at home, and one cat who regards her with disdain daily. When she’s not behind her laptop, you can find her at a ballfield, cheering on her favorite team (Washington Nationals) or her favorite player (her son, who pitches for his local high school), or at a dance performance with her daughter.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

One Last Objection

Can a burnt-out attorney turn his friends-with-benefits relationship with a fiery redheaded shrink into something more when she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant?

 

Dr. Margaret James is a successful psychologist in the small town of Oak Grove, PA. After growing up with two absent parents, she sees no need for a family or children. She’s happy and independent and likes it that way. She even enjoys the friends-with-benefits relationship she has with Philadelphia lawyer Michael Bennett.

 

After his dreams for making partner at his big city law firm are shattered, Michael Bennett packs up, buys out a retiring attorney’s practice in his hometown, and moves home. He’s looking forward to the slower pace of life in Oak Grove and interested in reigniting his relationship with fiery Maggie James.

 

An unexpected pregnancy throws Maggie for a loop. She doesn’t know how to be a mother. Hell, she can barely take care of herself. Enter Michael, who wants to take care of her and the baby. Is she willing to give up some of her independence for a chance at love and the family she’s never had? Will Michael be able to overcome her objections?

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Discussion

8 Responses to “Incorporating Deep POV into our writing… and why do we care? by Nancy Stopper”

  1. Thanks so much for this helpful post, Nancy! Deep POV is hard for a lot of us. Like you, I read and save posts with good writing tips but I can’t always translate the knowledge of “how” to do something to actually doing it. This will help!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | September 13, 2017, 10:05 am
    • Becke: That’s indeed the crux of it. I had the benefit of a wonder author who worked with me on two of my books, chapter by chapter, coaching me through deepening the POV until it finally clicked. And once it did click, it went smoothly from there. It changed the way I write, but it was a tough road to get there!

      Posted by Nancy Stopper | September 13, 2017, 11:11 am
  2. This was a great post. I self-published last year the first of my series but I knew things were missing. I have just finished a major edit before re-uploading hopefully this weekend, and all these things you discussed were there.
    Did I get them right this time round? I honestly don’t know but reading you in this post I know I got closer and I’m going to keep trying.

    Posted by Barbara | September 14, 2017, 5:28 am
    • Congrats on recognizing that Barbara. I think we can always be improving our craft. It took me several books to “get” it. I was able to get my books into a deeper pov but once the light bulb turned on, it started coming so much easier. Good luck and keep on working it!

      ~Nancy

      Posted by Nancy Stopper | September 14, 2017, 3:57 pm
  3. This is a BIG deal. I can hardly even read a book now that is NOT written in deep POV–it’s just too “distant” and ho-hum. To get more of a handle on this concept, check out the little book, Riveting Your Readers with Deep Point of View.” Your writing will never be the same : )

    Posted by Ginger Monette | September 14, 2017, 9:29 am
    • Ginger: That was a resource for me while I was learning Deep POV. I went through every one of the exercises and even worked it with a mentor who reviewed my exercises. It definitely helped me with a lot of bad habits I had developed. There is so much more that I incorporated into my Deep POV than I could cover in this article – that book is a great resource. Thanks for mentioning!

      ~Nancy

      Posted by Nancy Stopper | September 14, 2017, 3:59 pm

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