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View Full Version : Deep Point of View -- What it is -- Why it is Important



Laurie2
August 1st, 2008, 11:09 AM
In my work as an editor there is one comment that I write on manuscripts more than any other. That comment is, "deepen point of view." Many authors do not understand what deep point of view is and are even more stymied when it comes to actually using deep point of view to construct their stories.

Deep point of view is kind of an umbrella term for a collection of techniques that fiction authors use to make their characters and their stories real for their readers.

When most authors hear the term point of view they think about whose viewpoint a story is told from, first person, third person, or omniscient.

Which viewpoint to ue is a crucial question with numerous implications and is a decision that should be made before applying the specific techniques that deepen point of view once a point of view is established.

Understanding deep point of view and mastering the techniques associated with using it is important for fiction authors because when a reader picks up the latest romance, suspense, or erotic romance novel they want to be swept away. They want, for a time, to exist in an alternate reality. They want to imagine they are a character in another time, in another place, with a different set of concerns than they have in their real lives. As authors vicarious experiences are what we sell. If we do not provide it then the reader is disappointed and feels that they did not receive what they sought when they picked up the book.

Disappointed readers do not form a following, which is the lifeblood of an author. It isn't enough to find a publisher...in order to be successful as an author you have to be dedicated to pleasing the reader...to giving them what they seek...the vicarious experience.

Many authors write using shallow point of view. The experience for the reader when reading those books is similar to the experience of listening to a friend telling about a roller coaster ride she went on. If the friend is a good storyteller, she will tell you about the long ride to the top of the hill and the long plunge down the other side. She will tell you how it made her feel, but her feelings will likely not be woven into her narrative. Rather, she will give you the choreography of her experience and then tack on her emotional reaction to it at the end.

The goal of deep point of view is to create A REALITY for the reader that is much more real and much more immediate than we get when we listen to someone talk about an experience they have had. As authors we don't want the reader to feel like a bystander in our story...we want them to EXPERIENCE the story. So, rather than telling the reader ABOUT the experience on the roller coaster we use deep point of view TO CREATE THE EXPERIENCE for the reader...we do this by capturing each element of the experience through our viewpoint character.

Deep point of view transports the reader into the viewpoint character so that when the character hears the clank of the safety bar slapping closed on the roller coaster the reader hears it to. It transports the reader into the character so that when she thinks, oh my god, what did I get myself into, the reader thinks it too. The goal of deep point of view is to CREATE the WHOLE EXPERIENCE for the reader.

So, because the goal of writing in deep point of view is to give the reader a vicarious experience the author must in essence create a very real, very mulit-sensory adventure for the character. The reader will experience ONLY what the character experiences so it is important to make sure that the character's experience is a strong one. Authors do this by imagining the scene in which they envision their character (as if THEY ARE THE CHARACTER) and then pulling out the strongest details and describing them as the character would describe them.

In deep point of view everything, every thought, every nuance, every detail is processed through the viewpoint character. If the viewpoint character is a crotchety 90 year old man shaking his gun at the 20 something granddaughter who has come to take him back to the nursing home then the things he sees, the things he hears, the things he feels need to be described as HE sees them. Her perceptions, the perceptions of bystanders, the perception of the author is not brought in at all. Deep point of view is not about being fair...it is about showing the experience of the viewpoint character.

By knowing their characters on a very deep level and by processing everything that happens in a story through the viewpoint character an author can greatly deepen the point of view. Not only will the resulting story be much more attractive to an editor but it will give the author's readers the vicarious experiences they crave, ensuring many more book sales to follow.

Scarlet.Skye
August 1st, 2008, 01:09 PM
Laurie,

I also saw "show, don't tell" quite a bit on mine...LOL!

I have to say though, I really did not realize how shallow my writing actually was when I started... It was only when I received my manuscript back with its edits AND began working on them, that I realized how tedious the process to 'deepen the viewpoint' actually is...

Now I find myself sitting in my living room couch with the television muted, mentally re-enacting the whole scene in my head...Asking myself how would I feel, what would I say and what would be going on around me...

I remember being quite pleased with my book when I originally submitted it... Now as I look back, using the copy as a reference, I find it a little embarrassing. I now realize that it is essentially only the skeleton of my story... Now I have to put the meat on it...

One question... Is there such thing as being to descriptive, or giving to much of a viewpoint?... Sometimes I have to wonder if I am rambling...

I have noted in other novels I have read, quite a lot of repeating the same thought, or feeling, just in a different way... This is my personal pet peeve as a reader... I find it a waste of a chapter or a paragraph, that the author may have done simply to bulk up the story. This is something that I am personally trying to avoid as a new author... We shall see how that works out for me.. http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/board/images/icons/icon12.gif

Tanya
Scarlet Skye

hootowl23
August 1st, 2008, 04:49 PM
Laurie,

I've always felt there was something missing from my stories. I am now realizing I've never gotten "into" my characters to understand how they see or feel a situation. I hope that I am understanding the concept here. Hopefully this workshop will guide me in the right direction.

Tanya-I know what you mean about repeating the same thoughts/feelings. I very recently encountered this from one of my favorite fantasy authors and I had the same thoughts as you did.

Laurie2
August 1st, 2008, 09:38 PM
I also saw "show, don't tell" quite a bit on mine...LOL!

Yes, Scarlet, show, don't tell is my other favorite line. :-) Actually showing rather than telling is part of using deep point of view. The two techniques are connected.

I have to say though, I really did not realize how shallow my writing actually was when I started... It was only when I received my manuscript back with its edits AND began working on them, that I realized how tedious the process to 'deepen the viewpoint' actually is...

A lot of authors find that when they do the work of deepening point of view it is like they REALLY learn what makes their characters tick and why. It is very tedious work to go through and deepen point of view. That is why the majority of manuscripts that have that flaw are rejected. It can take several hundred hours of editorial time to go through a book length manuscript with shallow point of view and make the necessary notes to tell the author how and where to deepen the point of view.

Now I find myself sitting in my living room couch with the television muted, mentally re-enacting the whole scene in my head...Asking myself how would I feel, what would I say and what would be going on around me...

Don't forget, what you would be thinking. :-) Characters have three parts to their experiences...there is their physical experience, their mental experience and their emotional experience.

I remember being quite pleased with my book when I originally submitted it... Now as I look back, using the copy as a reference, I find it a little embarrassing. I now realize that it is essentially only the skeleton of my story... Now I have to put the meat on it...

I expect that most of us start with the skeleton. I do. I get the basic choreography of the scene down, then I go back in and figure out elements of the emotional and mental reality and make that all work.

One question... Is there such thing as being to descriptive, or giving to much of a viewpoint?... Sometimes I have to wonder if I am rambling...


Deep point of view is not really about being too descriptive. It's about capturing the reality of the character as the character is experiencing a scene or event. It is possible to provide too many details, too much description, if you are not careful about which details to show. If I were to capture the experience of sitting here in my office there are lots of things that I could describe.

There is the letter rack that sits to the left of my computer monitor
There is the rack which holds note pads which sits to the left of that.
There is a jar of kitty treats that is just to the left of the note pad rack.
The stapler is currently upside down next to the jar of kitty treats.
There are three half empty water bottles just to the right of my computer monitor.
There is a huge stack of manuscripts to the right of that.
The phone is to the right of the manuscripts, almost obscured.
Are you getting tired of details yet?

If you were to describe my experience here in the office there are some of those details which might be useful. However, you would probably not want to have all of them. Instead you would decide what you wanted to show. Do you want to show me relaxed in my element working? Would you rather show the hectic side of the business? The details you would choose to show would be different...though all of the details I described are here.

If you wanted to show me at home here in my office you might show me typing away, being distracted by my cat Missy who is licking my toes and purring. You might show me pulling out the desk drawer in which she sleeps and show me putting her in there with her kitty treats. That would be one scene with supporting details.

On the other hand, if you wanted to show a more hectic scene you could show the stack of manuscripts, the phone ringing, me looking hurriedly through the stack of manuscripts with one hand and pulling a note pad from the rack of notepads with the other.

The point is that in any scene there are hundreds of details which you could use. But you ONLY choose those that support the experience you want to give the reader.

Definitely just the details without an action on my part would be boring. Even with action, you might find the scene more interesting if it included part of my mental and emotional reality. It is the same for the scenes that you write in your book.

Pick your details carefully. A few very carefully chosen ones are stronger than throwing in handfuls of details.

I have noted in other novels I have read, quite a lot of repeating the same thought, or feeling, just in a different way... This is my personal pet peeve as a reader... I find it a waste of a chapter or a paragraph, that the author may have done simply to bulk up the story. This is something that I am personally trying to avoid as a new author... We shall see how that works out for me.. http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/board/images/icons/icon12.gif

It is good to be aware of the possibility of repeating the same thought or the same feeling unchanged. There are lots of times when less is better. Pick the strongest way to say it and the strongest place.

Laurie


Laurie,

I also saw "show, don't tell" quite a bit on mine...LOL!

I have to say though, I really did not realize how shallow my writing actually was when I started... It was only when I received my manuscript back with its edits AND began working on them, that I realized how tedious the process to 'deepen the viewpoint' actually is...

Now I find myself sitting in my living room couch with the television muted, mentally re-enacting the whole scene in my head...Asking myself how would I feel, what would I say and what would be going on around me...

I remember being quite pleased with my book when I originally submitted it... Now as I look back, using the copy as a reference, I find it a little embarrassing. I now realize that it is essentially only the skeleton of my story... Now I have to put the meat on it...

One question... Is there such thing as being to descriptive, or giving to much of a viewpoint?... Sometimes I have to wonder if I am rambling...

I have noted in other novels I have read, quite a lot of repeating the same thought, or feeling, just in a different way... This is my personal pet peeve as a reader... I find it a waste of a chapter or a paragraph, that the author may have done simply to bulk up the story. This is something that I am personally trying to avoid as a new author... We shall see how that works out for me.. http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/board/images/icons/icon12.gif

Tanya
Scarlet Skye

Laurie2
August 1st, 2008, 09:43 PM
Hi Hoot,

It's very likely that deep point of view is the something that was missing from your stories. The thing that happens when you start doing deep point of view is that you begin to really identify with your characters, thoughts, feelings, experiences. This translates to characters that seem more real, more multi-dimensional, who have motivations for their actions. There is A LOT more to cover than what I have posted this far. :-)

What I have posted so far is just the tip of the ice berg.

Before long you will be deep into your characters, able to articulate exactly what they feel and why they feel it. :-)


Laurie,

I've always felt there was something missing from my stories. I am now realizing I've never gotten "into" my characters to understand how they see or feel a situation. I hope that I am understanding the concept here. Hopefully this workshop will guide me in the right direction.

Tanya-I know what you mean about repeating the same thoughts/feelings. I very recently encountered this from one of my favorite fantasy authors and I had the same thoughts as you did.

hollie
August 2nd, 2008, 04:57 PM
This is a fasinating subject, it makes alot of things fall into place and I hope it can help with my reviewing.

I have recently read a book that had a lot of potential and a very good story line but seemed to lack ... something


Yes I think you can over describe things I reviewed a book that had that much discription it became difficult to follow the story

rgraham666
August 2nd, 2008, 05:18 PM
This is why I so often write in first person. It's an easier way to get a deep POV.

Since you're seeing what the narrator sees, feel what they feel, I find it easier to write and I think the readers find it easier to read.

Even in third person I concentrate on a single character to focus the reader's attention.

It's worked so far. ;)

Laurie2
August 2nd, 2008, 08:39 PM
Hi Hollie,

My guess is the something that was lacking was deep point of view. I expect that deep point of view was in a round about way the problem with the other book as well.

It is deep point of view that makes the details of the story relevant. If the details aren't relevant to the character, why would they be relevant to the reader?

The viewpoint character(s) are the reader's conveyance through the story...and deep point of view is really a technique for making the viewpoint character's experiences the experiences that the reader has. If you are reading, and you are not feeling what the character is feeling or not feeling as if you are experiencing what they are experiencing, or if it just doesn't feel like it is relevant then the probability is it is a problem with depth of point of view...though sometimes the problem is that the particular scene is being told through the wrong character's perceptions and experiences.

Laurie


This is a fasinating subject, it makes alot of things fall into place and I hope it can help with my reviewing.

I have recently read a book that had a lot of potential and a very good story line but seemed to lack ... something


Yes I think you can over describe things I reviewed a book that had that much discription it became difficult to follow the story

Laurie2
August 2nd, 2008, 08:49 PM
I agree. I think it is easier to get into deep POV with first person point of view. As you say, you are seeing what the narrator sees, feeling what they feel, you know what they know (but not what they don't know). It is a viewpoint which is well suited for some types of material...less so for others...where showing two different/opposing points of view is important.

In third person you SHOULD focus on a single character at a time. :-) Otherwise you would be writing in omniscient, which is often a shallow point of view, rather than writing in limited third.

One way that I think of deep point of view is that it is similar to first person in that you describe the thoughts, feelings, experiences of a single viewpoint character. The basic difference is that in first person the character is the first person narrator. In third person the depth of point of view is similar but the character is referred to in third person, he/she/Mark/Gloria, rather than as I. Third person sets up the ability to show a different point of view as the narrator can smoothly move to another character's point of view in third, but not as smoothly do that in first person.

As I said in the opening...the first viewpoint decision is which viewpoint to use. Sometimes first person works very well for a story and it is a viewpoint that is accepted by the publisher that you are aiming the story for, in which case, use first person. Other times you need to incorporate other viewpoints and third person deep point of view works well for that. There are lots of tools in the author's arsenal. It's good to know how to use all of them.

Laurie


This is why I so often write in first person. It's an easier way to get a deep POV.

Since you're seeing what the narrator sees, feel what they feel, I find it easier to write and I think the readers find it easier to read.

Even in third person I concentrate on a single character to focus the reader's attention.

It's worked so far. ;)

Jean Kelli
August 4th, 2008, 05:08 PM
I guess where I get confused is making the switch from literary short stories to genre fiction, in that I thought I should pare the details way down, to quick-read pacing. Now I'm learning that the same details (which makes for good deep POV) still need to be there. I don't know where I got this idea. I've been so busy writing that my reading has gone way down, and so recently I've been back to reading and I realized that I have it all wrong. In making the genre switch, I became obsessed with pacing and style, to the point where I'm leaving details out and the POV is shallow. So now I've got to learn to get the pacing out of my head so I can focus on deeper POV. I tend to focus too much on one element or another, and my problem is bringing all the elements together. I'm figuring it out though.

Laurie2
August 5th, 2008, 12:17 AM
Hi Jean Kelli,

Different types of material have different expectations and conventions around point of view. I am most knowledgable about what is expected in the romance genre.

The thing is...if you cover every breath your character takes from the time she meets the hero till the time they find their happily ever after...and you cover it in deep point of view, you are going to have one long book, with a pretty slow pace.

One thing that is important is to pick the important scenes...those which move the story in some way...and show those in deep point of view. Use transitions to move the reader through time and space when nothing important goes on. In other words, if the hero and heroine meed on page five and then he leaves town for three weeks, don't cover every breath and every thought for the three weeks he is gone cover only those things important enough to change the story in some direction. Transitions which help you move between important scenes are one place where it is okay to summarize and tell rather than show.

Important scenes should be shown in deep point of view. If there is no emotional meat in the scene...if it doesn't change anything in the story...then it is probably a scene that you do not need to cover at all, and certainly not in deep point of view.

It's like most things a balance.

Choosing the details carefully is important. Having your character interact with the details that you drop into the scene. Don't just have a nice white carpet on the floor...have her interact with the carpet in some way...maybe she buries her toes in it...or maybe it is a rug and she goes around it rather than walking on it because she is conscious of getting it dirty. Whether your character buries her toes or walks around the rug tells a lot about her. The details should be relevant to the story and to the characters.

Laurie


I guess where I get confused is making the switch from literary short stories to genre fiction, in that I thought I should pare the details way down, to quick-read pacing. Now I'm learning that the same details (which makes for good deep POV) still need to be there. I don't know where I got this idea. I've been so busy writing that my reading has gone way down, and so recently I've been back to reading and I realized that I have it all wrong. In making the genre switch, I became obsessed with pacing and style, to the point where I'm leaving details out and the POV is shallow. So now I've got to learn to get the pacing out of my head so I can focus on deeper POV. I tend to focus too much on one element or another, and my problem is bringing all the elements together. I'm figuring it out though.

Jean Kelli
August 5th, 2008, 03:31 PM
Excellent, this makes perfect sense! To summarize: have descriptions be totally connected to deep POV of character showing the scene--details woven in in terms of action or emotion and connected to moving story along or character development.

And I am finding time spent away from writing, imagining the story unfold through my mind, the nuances of the characters all happening in real (and slow) time, crucial to deepening POV.

Laurie compared this to a movie scene.... When I watch a romance movie, I hang on every single little nuance between the hero and heroine: the subtext, their mannerisms, and every little detail, every bit of tension and clues to their deepening feelings for each other--this is the romantic experience and so I can see why Deep POV would be crucial to a truly great romance.

Jean Kelli
August 5th, 2008, 03:35 PM
So then I guess the goal of Deep POV third is to give the first person experience minus the limitations of third person.

Laurie2
August 5th, 2008, 07:54 PM
Hi Kelli,

I think you have it...having descriptions totally connected to the deep point of view character, so that the description comes from the character is what we are after.

Then there is the aspect of tying all those details/descriptions/feelings/thoughts in with the action that moves the story forward. In other words, the description isn't stagnant unless the character is perfectly still and is only observing the environment. IF the character is not still, and is thinking and moving around the scene then the description should be tied in with the thoughts, the feelings and the actions.

But, before we go further with that we need to talk about the parts of a character's reality and I haven't posted that lesson yet.

You are pretty much taking the words out of my mouth in terms of the discussion of deep point of view and the sexual tension in a romantic movie.

I think you're on the right track. :)

Laurie


Excellent, this makes perfect sense! To summarize: have descriptions be totally connected to deep POV of character showing the scene--details woven in in terms of action or emotion and connected to moving story along or character development.

And I am finding time spent away from writing, imagining the story unfold through my mind, the nuances of the characters all happening in real (and slow) time, crucial to deepening POV.

Laurie compared this to a movie scene.... When I watch a romance movie, I hang on every single little nuance between the hero and heroine: the subtext, their mannerisms, and every little detail, every bit of tension and clues to their deepening feelings for each other--this is the romantic experience and so I can see why Deep POV would be crucial to a truly great romance.

Laurie2
August 5th, 2008, 07:57 PM
Kelli,

The goal of deep point of view, whether it is employed in first person or third person is to provide the reader not just a narrative (a choreography or a telling of the story) but to provide them with a more realistic EXPERIENCE of the story that helps them to imagine themselves inside the character experiencing what the character experiences.

Laurie


So then I guess the goal of Deep POV third is to give the first person experience minus the limitations of third person.