where the writers are
Deep Point of View

First: I got my box of author copies of Where Danger Hides. That's always exciting. Next: it's May, and I've got a new contest. Check the Contest Tab at Terry's Place. I've also got some new entries on my website, including a "from the cutting room floor" scene from Where Danger Hides, as well as a peek behind the scenes at the way the book started.

Last week, there was a lot of discussion about using deep point of view to tell a story. I thought I'd give a brief recap/explanation of the terminology, especially since I'm judging a contest for unpublished writers, and point of view, deep or otherwise, seems to be a problem for some.

Author Suzanne Brockmann uses the term "deep POV" and it seems accepted in the romance community, although it might not be an "official" definition. But, as some commenters pointed out last week, it sounds a lot like 1st person.

And yes, that's exactly what it is. When I write I want to be in the POV character's head to the point where I could substitute "I" for each use of "He" or the character's name. But writing in 3rd person POV gives the author the ability to have more than one POV character (although it's not required). There are authors who use first person for their main protagonist, and third for other characters, and it can work. There are authors who have used multiple first person POV characters. But traditionally in romance, there are two equally important characters: the hero and the heroine, and both will be POV characters. Not to say you can't have more. Suzanne Brockmann uses half a dozen or so in her books, and writes in deep POV for all of them.

In a nutshell, being in deep POV means you're in the character's head. You see only what he can see, hear only what he can hear. You're privy to emotions, to thoughts. The author isn't on the page. There is no narrator.

And, just as with first person, you have to work to let the reader know what you want her to know, or not know what you don't want her to know. Nobody said it was easy.

The following are Suzanne Brockmann's recommended rules for using deep POV to tell your story. She goes into a lot more detail, and I don't know if you can still find her giveaway booklet, "Suzanne Brockmann's Extras for Writers: Going Deep with Point of View" anywhere.

1. Don't cheat the reader. If it's logical for a character to be thinking of something in a scene, you can't hide it from the reader.

2. Make sure your characters don't notice things they would miss. This is one of my "pet peeves" with characters noticing brand names, designer labels, composers, or artists, that they logically shouldn't recognize. My favorite example – the red carpet parade before an awards show. Husband lost an argument and can't watch the game. She, if she's fashion conscious might reflect on the style of gown, perhaps even recognize the designer. The man's probably not going to go much beyond, "nice tits."

3. No unconscious thoughts. No slipping into omniscient POV. Music, which he didn't recognize as Mozart, drifted from the room. No slipping out of character. "He didn't notice Frank pour the drink." If your POV character didn't notice it, then the reader can't see it, either.

4. Don't use distancing words. Avoid 'he thought' in place of 'he said.' If you're in deep POV, the reader should know that the character is thinking. If your character is facing a man with a gun, and you write, "She was going to die," it's obvious that's what she's thinking. It's not necessary to write, "She was going to die, she thought."

5. Use anchoring words to maintain deep POV. Now, some "rule followers" might tell you to avoid these words because they're distancing, or adverbs, or some other violation. But if you're in a character's head, that character can't know for sure what someone else is thinking, seeing, hearing, etc. So, words like "seemed" "saw" or "wanted" help ground the reader. "He saw her eyebrow twitch and knew she was one step away from slapping him."

And, I'll add a reminder – whatever POV you choose, however many characters have front and center page time, it's about the transitions. If your reader follows your shifts, whether they're done with extra line breaks, asterisks, or just plain good transitional writing, then you've done your job.

To "test" yourself: Substitute "I" for "he" (or the character's name) in a scene. Is there anyone else sneaking in there? Write the entire scene again from another character's point of view. I did this as an exercise once, and it ended up being my first published work, Words. If you want to read it, you can get it free at Smashwords or All Romance eBooks.

Third person doesn't have to be deep. It just happens to be the way I like to read and write. Keeping things deep helps heighten suspense.