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In this brief article, I’ll try and show you a simplified explanation of Deep POV and an example of how to drill down into your character’s POV successively deeper. Deep POV is the number one most effective way to snag your reader’s attention and keep it, and the lack is often the reason a manuscript feels flat and fails to capture an agent or editor’s interest. But what is Deep POV?

Deep POV, also known as deep penetration point of view, is an intense viewpoint representing not just the sights and sounds and actions of the POV character, but how they feel, react and most importantly their own unique way of characterizing the world.

The first thing you need to keep in mind is the typical structure of a scene consists of a stimulus and then a response, repeated over and over. You cannot have one without the other! You can’t have a phone ring and no one notice. Nor can you have someone answer the phone if it doesn’t first ring. Sounds simple, right?

The second thing you need to memorize is the normal order of presentation: emotion, thought, decision, action. Let me stress here to MEMORIZE this order. Your editor will nail you if your character grabs a sword, thinks to himself wtf is he going to do with a sword, and then his stomach clenches. The correct scene would read: The enemy crowded closer. Tor's gut clenched. A sword lay on the table. WTF was he supposed to do with a sword? A blade arced by his head, and he grabbed the damn weapon.. (Note: There are always exceptions to any rule!)

If we look at our presentation order in reverse we have the basic building blocks of Deep POV: action, decision, thought, emotion. Use each one successively to take your reader deeper and deeper into your character’s point of view. These four elements are our camera lens, and you’ll widen (only use action) or tighten (use all four) throughout your book to effect pacing, tension and intensity. Deep POV can be exhausting for a reader and in fact slows pacing dramatically, so be sure to vary it with cinematic POV (or a wider lens).

In the following examples, I'll show you the same scene, each time adding another of these four elements and taking you from cinematic viewpoint to Deep POV.

Let’s take the first one on the list: ACTION is the most simplistic response. It is present in all responses. Even inaction is an action. For instance: The telephone rang, (stimulus) but everyone ignored the persistent ringing. (response) Even though no one did anything, the lack of action is an action—“ignoring”, if that makes sense.

Here’s the scene in cinematic viewpoint:

Margie heard the chiming of the door bell. (stimulus)
Racing to the door, she unhooked the latch and pulled the door open. (response)
“Hi, Bob. What are you doing today?” she asked. (stimulus)
“Nothing special.” (response)
He motioned with his measuring cup. “I wondered if you had a cup of sugar I could borrow?” (stimulus)
“Oh, sure.” She turned back toward her kitchen. (response)

Notice the use of the word “heard”. Sense words such as heard, felt, saw, smelt, etc distance the reader and are indicative of a lack of Deep POV.

Now, let’s take the same scene and take the viewpoint a little deeper by adding DECISION and internalization or THOUGHT:

Margie heard the chiming of the door bell. (stimulus)
Not two seconds before she’d seen Bob leave his house with a small cup in his hand. (thought)
It was probably her neighbor. (decision)
Racing to the door, she unhooked the latch and pulled the door open. (response)
“Hi, Bob. What are you doing today?” she asked. (stimulus)
“Nothing special.” (response)
He motioned with his measuring cup. “I wondered if you had a cup of sugar I could borrow?” (stimulus)
At least he wanted something sweet from her. (thought)
“Oh, sure.” She turned back toward her kitchen. (response)

And deeper still by adding the EMOTION:

Margie heard the chiming of the door bell. (stimulus)
Not two seconds before she’d seen Bob leave his house with a small cup in his hand. (thought)
Her breath caught. (emotion) Could it be her hunky neighbor? (decision)
Racing to the door, she unhooked the latch and pulled the door open. (response)
“Hi, Bob. What are you doing today?” she asked. (stimulus)
“Nothing special.” (response)
He motioned with his measuring cup. “I wondered if you had a cup of sugar I could borrow?” (stimulus)
Deflated, her shoulders sank. (emotion) At least he wanted something sweet from her. (thought)
“Oh, sure.” She turned back toward her kitchen. (response)


When adding emotion to your scenes, try and SHOW the emotion through visceral reactions instead of simply stating the emotion. For instance, in the example above I used the visceral reaction of her breath catching to show the reader Margie's excitement. If I'd told the reader simply that Margie was excited, I'd be distancing the reader from Margie (pulling away from Deep POV). Also, in Deep POV the tag "she thought" is unnecessary for internal dialogue.

And now, for true Deep POV, let’s remove everything that’s “telling” (heard, saw, felt, etc), give us Margie’s unique view on things (and, in turn, reveal the author’s voice as well as Margie’s personality) and tighten our focus to reveal more details:

The door bell chimed and Margie spilled the coffee she was pouring. Not two seconds before she’d seen Bob leave his house with a small cup in his hand. Her breath caught. Could it be her hunky neighbor?
She set the coffee pot back on the burner so fast the dark liquid sloshed over the side. Hell's bells. She ran her hands over her rumpled pajamas, tightened her pony tail and raced to the door. Unhooking the latch, she prayed he thought the tousled look was sexy.
“Hey, Bob,” she rushed, her voice a little winded from the Olympian vault to the door. She really needed to say no to the Oreo gods more often. “What’s up?”
“Nothing special.” He flashed a sheepish grin, though her gaze didn’t linger on his face. No, as always, her gaze traveled south. Jeans low on his hips, his signature black T-shirt, bare feet. Now that’s how you rock the tousled look. He really was too good looking to be allowed to roam in the wild like this.
He motioned with his measuring cup, dipping his head a little to get her attention. “I wondered if you had a cup of sugar I could borrow?” His tone was warm but not flirty.
Deflated, her shoulders sank. He didn't seem as enamored with her little Snoopy shorts and tee as she'd hoped. “Sure, come on in."
He followed her into the kitchen, and she couldn't help adding a little extra swing with her hips.


And there you have it! My over-simplified, five minute explanation of Deep POV. Keep in mind, no rules are concrete and there's a thousand different ways to tell a story, so yes you can reverse the presentation order when necessary and yes you can use the word "heard" occasionally and yes you can go even deeper than the example I just gave. The key here is, if you feel you do not have a good handle on Deep POV, use the examples above and look at your own writing and see what you're missing. Odds are you have some of the elements present, but you're occasionally missing the visceral reactions or not sprinkling in enough internal thought or your internal dialogue is dry and lacks personality (or your character's unique voice).

Good luck and happy writing!

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