What if you want to write a story with a personal, emotional and introspective point of view? You would have two basic choices:
- First person: The heat of the dragon’s breath warmed my face, increasing the pounding in my chest.
- Deep 3rd person: The heat of the dragon’s breath warmed his face, increasing the pounding in his chest.
Before the 1980’s (prior to deep POV acceptance) the second option would have been written:
- 3rd person: He felt the heat of the dragon’s breath on his face as he noticed increasing pounding in his chest.
The above older technique injects tags of “he felt” and “he noticed”. Those tags are an analog of “he said” which adds narrative “distance” between the reader and the character. It’s not clear who invented deep POV but it has become wildly popular for writing fiction.
Deep POV is like other writing tools — don’t use it to excess. The technique is intense and may fatigue the reader, so use it strategically when the story benefits from high emotion or fast paced scenes without the obvious rhetorical presence of the author.
The writer makes a contract with the reader of deep POV to accept the idea they can read another persons thoughts. To avoid breaking the “spell” a few “rules” are helpful:
- Omit “report” tags (e.g. he thought, she felt, he reasoned etc.)
- Be objective: Show, don’t tell. (NO: she felt anxious YES: her skin was moist; her heart pounded; her hands trembled)
- Generally avoid italics for thoughts which are typical of a more distanced POV. However, if the character is truly thinking: I am sick of living in a cave. Italics are necessary to avoid the reader feeling the author accidentally switched to first person.
- Limit the point of view to just one character per scene. Don’t head-hop.
- OMG: Unless the POV character is looking in a mirror, they cannot know or think “my face is red” or “a spider is on my back”.
Xeno reached into his pack. He remembered placing the dinosaur egg there before his fall. His hand searched the green pack. He felt gooey slime at the bottom.
With deep POV:
Xeno reached into his pack. The dinosaur egg was there before his fall. His hand searched the green pack. At the bottom, gooey slime coated his fingers.
R. C. Beckett was given a collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine as a teenager and read hundreds of the stories — he was hooked and started writing fiction in 2013. He loves to write hard science fiction, but can’t help adding a bit of humor. Publications: “Exit Mars” and “Exit Earth” (available on Amazon). “Exit Pluto”, the third in the Exit series, should be published in late 2020. He lives in Golden Colorado and is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Walking his dog is key to his writing since that’s when he imagines plots for his stories. He also volunteers as a webmaster for non-profit companies including SpecFicWriters.