Narrative Point of View & Deep Point of View: Writing Tips
by SM CADMAN
“Consider the difference between the first and third person in poetry […] It’s like the difference between looking at a person and looking through their eyes.” ― Diana Abu-Jaber, Crescent (goodreads.com)
Ever read a story, novel or poem and wonder why you’re unable to identify with it? Perhaps you decide to stick with it and struggle through reading it. But now you’re left unsatisfied with how it was told to you. What exactly was the issue with it, why couldn’t you just get into it? Sometimes it’s as simple as the Point of View it was told to you in. The point of view an author chooses to write their prose will ultimately determine how successful or unsuccessful the story is with its readers.
Let’s begin with the basics. If you already know these, this will be a quick review for you before diving into Deep Narrative Point of View.
Writing with Jane: Point of View
The Basics of Point of View:
“I walked into the store and bought an apple.”
- Unreliable Narrator:
Deliberately misleads the reader by omitting certain important things about the story and its characters.
- First Person Objective:
Tells/shows only what the characters said and did, without any commentary leaving it up to readers to imagine exactly what’s happening.
- Observer Narrator:
A narrator outside the story that tells the story, unattached to any of the story or the characters. Sometime vaguely related as an acquaintance, friend or relative that tells the story though too.
- Detached Autobiography:
A narrator looking back on past events often with the benefit of hindsight.
- Multiple Narrators:
First Person accounts by several different characters in the storyline.
- Interior Monologue:
The narrator recounts the story as a memory like a stream of consciousness.
- Dramatic Monologue:
The narrator tells the story like it is, often drastically and without interruption. It’s also sometimes referred to as a soliloquy.
- Letter/Diary Narrative:
A narrator writes down the events as they happen, often formatted like a letter or a series of letters exchanged between characters or a diary of some sort. Sometimes the story is told as if it were journalism or creative nonfiction.
“You walked into the store and bought an apple.”
Rarely ever used in short stories and novels; mostly this POV is relegated to poetry, prose and song lyricism. A good example that breaks this rule is the 70’s-2000’s classic, Choose Your Own Adventure books. These books only ever used second person narrative.
“He/She/They walked into the store and bought an apple/bought apples.”
- Third Person Limited:
The author writes a single character who’s an eye witness for the story.
Here the author denies entry to any of the characters thoughts or feelings by only describing, without any emotion nor editorializing, what the characters say and do.
All-Knowing the author tells the story from all perspectives, in this author’s persona the story can develop in any way of several directions.
- Episodically Limited:
Whoever the POV is for a particular scene determines what the story is or the persona is.
- Occasional Interrupter:
The author steps in from time to time to supply the necessary information but otherwise stays in the background.
- Editorial Commentator:
This narrator persona has a distinct attitude toward the story’s characters and events then frequently comments on them.
First-Person POV vs. Third-Person POV: Which is Right for Your Book?
Deep Narrative Point View
Deep Narrative Point View or Deep POV as it’s often referred to is one of the most difficult skills to conquer in fiction writing. It’s a highly abstract concept that removes the author completely from the storytelling. They’re never seen nor heard from. And this is why this technique is so deep: it’s almost as if there’s no author but rather you’re witnessing the story told through the characters. The best deep POV does just that. You wouldn’t even know it was written by an author at all other than you know you’re reading words off a page. It’s so profound that when used correctly, in Third Person Narrative, it’s almost as if the writer has written the story in First Person Narrative. But remember when writing in first person, this also doesn’t necessarily constitute deep POV either.
11 Tips To Keep In Mind When Using Deep Narrative POV:
- The narrative removes the author from the story and creates intimacy; the character becomes the storyteller. The author’s voice becomes silent.
- The author never tells the character’s thoughts, feelings nor actions. This is always left up to the reader to discern from showing these behaviors.
- Remove all adverbs, such as -ly words. This creates distance between the reader and story. If used, the author is then too visible.
- Also remember that writing in First Person Narrative doesn’t mean it’s Deep Narrative Point of View. Deep POV can also be achieved using Third Person Narrative too.
- Remove all dialogue tags, such as: he/she/they said.
- Remove all sense verbs, “describe the sense itself”.
- Remove all thinking verbs. Immerse the reader within the character’s thoughts.
- Never write what the character cannot see for themselves. The character cannot remark on their own facial expression unless looking into a mirror viewing themselves.
- Remove any writing that contains emotional naming, show the characters actions. This creates more intimacy yet again by removing the author from the storytelling.
- Never name the character in the action either. The character would never name themselves when completing an action.
- Give the “evidence not the verdict”. Readers should be able to discern the verdict from your writing, you shouldn’t have to tell them.
Citations and References:
1Kilian, Crawford. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. Bellingham, WA: Self-Counsel Press, 2007. Book.
2 Yagoda, Ben. How to Not Write Bad. New York, New York: Penguin Group, Riverhead, 2013. Book.
3 Weinman, Irving. Write Great Dialogue. London, UK: Hodder Education, Hachette, 2012. Book.
4 LaPlante, Alice. The Making of a Story. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc, 2007. Book.
Image Credit/from: Microsoft Clip-Art Library, 2016.
The Editors Blog: http://theeditorsblog.net/2011/11/16/deep-pov-whats-so-deep-about-it/
Writers In The Storm Blog: http://writersinthestormblog.com/2014/10/diving-deep-into-deep-point-of-view/
Originally published on Page to Pixels.