Three UNSPOKEN Dont’s of Deep POV

When it comes to writing in deep POV, there are so many things you shouldn’t do. So many, in fact, that writing in deep POV often feels constraining. Still, every writer today should consider using the technique. One reason is that traditional publishers prefer stories told in deep POV. A second reason is that deep POV is now the new narrative voice. In fact, if you come upon a writer these days talking about voice and fiction, they are usually discussing deep POV.

So What Is Deep POV?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, deep POV emphasizes character and their relationship to the story’s plot, whereas narrative voice favors looking at characters in their milieu. Thus, a novelist writing in deep POV has to stick close to a scene’s story arc while interweaving descriptions and character revelations into the text. In a way, it’s much like plot driven fiction. The aesthetic also discourages narrative digressions, which is another reason why writing in deep POV feels so limiting.

So Many Don’ts

A major reason deep POV is so hard to master is that there are more don’ts than do’s. Here are the classic ones you can find on/in most Writing Blogs/ AuthorTube videos.

  • Don’t use filter words
  • Don’t use emotion tells
  • Don’t use narrative tricks/ Don’t break character
  • Don’t flash back
  • Don’t make characters explain their thoughts, beliefs, and world view
  • Don’t tell

But having to follow these rules can frustrate a writer, especially ones who are used to writing in a more traditional style. You might start asking yourself, does it really matter if I break the rules just this once? Such a writer might even start taking shortcuts to achieve deep POV in their writing.

Don’t Take Shortcuts

As I study other writers using deep POV and practice it myself, I’ve discovered that the overwhelming desire to attain deep POV often leads to sloppy writing. So here are three more don’ts for the list.

  • Don’t Ignore Paragraph Flow

Paragraph flow is the one facet of writing people rarely ever talk about. It is, however, the most important aspect of writing. Good flow connects individual elements into a unified whole and creates meaning. Smoother connections also keep the reader under your narrative spell.

Prose written in deep POV, however, is often choppy. I suspect this occurs because writers are trying to transform traditional narrative styles into deep POV. When they see a “tell” in their writing, they merely replace it with a “show”. Here is a paragraph from K. M. Weiland’s post on choppy prose, This is her “improved” version:

Ariel arrived at the train station only two minutes late. She ran down the platform and screamed at the train to stop. She had to get on! Finally, she gave up and stopped short. Tears welled. This was so unfair. Now, what would happen to her? She was doomed, of course. The strength melted out of her legs, and she sat down on her suitcase. Maybe the next train would leave soon? Or perhaps someone would take pity on her. A kind man in a fedora stopped beside her and asked if he could help. She sniffed and looked up. Maybe this was her lucky day after all—or maybe it was a miracle?

As you can see, the writing is in deep POV, but clearly, the main character’s introspections are tossed into a paragraph with no consideration for the sentences that come before or after it. After reading a lot of choppy deep POV fiction, I’m starting to suspect that well written deep POV will require a different ordering of information in paragraphs.

  • Don’t Just Delete Filter Words

Mavens of deep POV often imply that filter words exist to create distance between a reader and the character. Nothing is further from the truth. Filter words are mostly used to create transitions in a paragraph, a shift from the panoramic to the personal. Willy-nilly deleting them often leads to choppy prose.

Experts often advise writers to search their manuscript for filter words and then just delete them. For example, transforming “He saw a body floating in the pond” to “The body floated [or was floating] in the pond” is easy enough, but make certain that the revised sentence flows with the rest of the paragraph. That “He saw” might be a transition.

  • Don’t Infodump in Dialogue

One lazy way to write in deep POV is to move everything- from setting description to a character’s thoughts and feelings- into dialogue. The logic is that dialogue is always a part of a scene and therefore always showing. And while this may be technically true, infodumping in dialogue is still a form of telling. It will also bore the reader. I recently read a traditionally published novel where the main story was told in dialog infodumps. It wasn’t fun.

So in conclusion

  • Deep POV requires a different approach to storytelling
  • There are no shortcuts when writing in deep POV

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment!

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