Friday, February 12, 2010

Deep Point of View

On Saturday, I ran a workshop on Deep Point of View. (POV or VP). The people at the workshop asked me for my notes, so I'm going to put them up here, where they can make copies of them.

But first of all there is basic Point of View. I covered it here, back in 2009. This covers basic VP types, when you would use a VP and why.

Remember to tell the scene from the VP of the person who has the most to lose. This will be the most exciting VP.


The simplest way to change VP is to change when you start a new chapter or scene but, every now and then, you might want to change VP in the middle of scene. Maybe you want to show how the other character misunderstood something, or you want to raise tension and reveal something to the reader, that one of the protagonists doesn't know.

To change VP mid scene you need to signal the change clearly. To do this use the character's name and an emotive verb. Make it clear which VP you are in.

'Annie didn't know whether to laugh or cry.'

As soon as you see a word like knew or sensed, felt, wondered or thought, you know you have to be in that character's VP. These are subjective verbs, they rely on the character's perception.

Then you can either switch straight away to his VP or slip into omniscient to set the scene then into his VP. Like this.

'Annie didn't know whether to laugh or cry. (Third person VP, Hers).
The dust settled on the floor between them. (Omniscient).
Nathan coughed and wiped chalk dust off his shirt, wishing he could think of something wity to say, but he always came up with smart replies later. (His VP).'

Use VP changes sparing for greatest effect. Don't risk losing your reader and throwing them out of the story.


To write deep VP you need to know your characters. Know their background, know their motivation and their secret fears. If you think you know your characters interview them and let them answer the question in First Person. Here's some sample questions. Your character's responses can be quite revealing. You could come up with questions more suitable to your world if you're writing genre.

What's the most memorable moment from your childhood?
Are you still in touch with your childhood best friend.
What's the most embarrassing moment?
What's your idea of a perfect day?
If you knew you were going to die in 6 months, what would you do?
If you could change one thing about you, what would it be?

Now that you know your characters, you can write from deep in their point of view. Filter what they see through their perception.

They don't just walk into a room, the room has significance. If they have been there before and something terrible happened and now they have to face the person who did this terrible thing again, then you have a powerful scene. Let the character's emotions and back-story colour the way they see the world.


By showing the reader how your characters feel about a place, an event or a person, you filter the story through the character's perception. You make it more powerful.

Use all 5 senses plus intuition.

Have your character observe others and try to work out what they are really thinking. Your character can get this wrong and you can reveal the misunderstanding using a VP change. This can add to the humour of the scene or raise the tension.


Creating vivid characters.

With strong motivations.

Using clear VP changes.

Using all the senses, including intuition.

Imbuing places and events with emotional significance.

Filtering the reader's perception of the world through the character's perception so that they feel what the character feels.

Starting our with High Stakes and then Raising the Stakes!

Now that you are aware of VP and Deep VP look at your favourite authors.

How many VPs do they use?

When do they change VP?

Why do they change it and how do they do this?

Do they imbue places and events with significance? How?

Be an informed reader. Set out to observe the writing craft in other authors' work and apply what works for you.


Astrid Cooper said...

An excellent summary of POV. Thanks for sharing. I noticed in the earlier session on POV you suggested that an author re-write a scene from third person to first, to give it the 'immediacy'. I can't agree more - it's surprising how much switching POV changes emotional content. The other thing I like to do is write a character journal - just one page of free form writing to get to 'know' the character - again, if the author allows the character to develop at this time (no internal editor allowed for this exercise!) then it is surprising to see just what this character will tell YOU about themselves - it tends to strip away the veneer to get to the fundamental character of the character (hopes, fears, dreams, etc.) Again, Cory, thanks for sharing!
Cheers, Astrid.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I'd rather read a book in Deep PV than anything else. I like to feel as if I'm really there.