Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Deep POV

At first I thought it was some new yoga/pilates move. 

"Now we will move from Downward Dog into Deep POV."

And then I thought I was being completely clueless again and it was some new sexual reference.  Perhaps it's some new hip description of really really really poor people?  I even thought it may be some new gadget that one attached to ones 4WD SUV like ABS or EFI.

But no.  It's actually a writing term and I'm not the only one out here that had to look it up.  After half an hour of research I came to the conclusion that it had the potential to be the Universal Panacea For Writers.  Well what else would you call something that, if used according to the directions, will work to Show not Tell, minimise use of dialogue tags and enable a reader to really get inside the character's head?

Sounds fabulous doesn't it?  Well don't get too excited because it takes time to perfect the dose and dosage.  Too much too often and you end up waffling on about nothing else but thoughts and feelings and anyone who wants to read that would be better off picking up a self-help book.  Or poetry.  Not enough and you'll end up with a so-so manuscript that fails to grab the reader.  Death by Shallow POV.  Ahhh!  Code Red!  Code Blue!

So what is Deep POV?  In short it's getting right inside the head of your character and describing how they feel, what they see, smell, hear, taste etc.  There is more focus on body language being used to show reactions and emotions.  Instead of ACTION --> EMOTION --> REACTION --> DIALOGUE they are all layered on top of each other providing a much richer reading experience.  Here's the part where I do an example:

BAD: Catherine paused uncertainly at the post box.  She wondered, not for the first time, if she should post the letter.  Maybe, she thought, I should just hold on to it for a bit longer. 

BETTER: Catherine stood quite close to the post box, holding the letter to William in her right hand.  It was heavy, the paper carrying not only her words but so much emotion.  Would it fit through the slot in his door or would it stick there, choking the door like some overly greedy animal only to be hacked up and spat out into the cold where it would try and limp home to her but ultimately be consigned to a gutter where a homeless person would find it and burn it for five seconds of warmth?  Catherine clutched the letter even tighter, pressing it against her stomach as she chewed her lip.  Her left arm ached from the grip she still had on the post box handle but to let go without posting the letter was as good as shouting "Coward!" but all the reasons for not posting it had equally loud, pushy and irritating voices.

You'll notice I didn't use the headings BAD and GOOD because the second example is far from good (I'm still in medical school here).  But if you google Deep POV I'm sure you'll find some of the sterling examples I found and you'll have your aha moment (and no I don't mean the Norwegian boy band).

One piece of advice that I found extremely useful was to imagine yourself as your Deep POV character.  Immerse yourself in that character by whatever means necessary: music, smells, clothing, food, wine, scenery.  When you've captured the essence, start thinking like the character in the situation/scene you're writing.  Two points here:
1) You will probably notice all sorts of things that you hadn't before because you're "in character".  Things like how you react to things, what you're thinking/dreaming of, perhaps even memories (backstory).  These things will help to flesh out your character and make them so much more real; and
2) When you (as the character) think about things take note of the fact you don't use tags or superfluous information eg I can't believe, I thought shakily, what I'm seeing with my large cornflower blue eyes.  Yes, that is over doing it somewhat but I hope you get my point.  With the experience fresh in your mind just get it all down on paper and then edit it later.

Actors use this process when preparing for a role, and I've even done it myself in a version called Teacher In Role where you "become" a character from a book and then the students ask you questions.  It worked quite well actually and got more than one kid to take another look at Shakespeare. 

Of course none of the sites I looked at were able to say exactly how much Deep POV was the precisely perfect amount - but who can say that about any crafting tool?  It all depends on your story.  

Go well.  Go Deep.

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Addendum: I did promise the bubbly and sassy ABSOLUTELY*KATE a new pair of teal heels.  Hope you like them Miss Kate.

5 comments:

Lacey Devlin said...

I have a very similar pair of those shoes in black. I love them :)

Nas Dean said...

How do you deal with deep POV in a 1000 word story? I'm struggling here. My story goes over the word limit.

BTW, love the pair of shoes.

Elissa Graham said...

Nas - I'm no expert on this new writing tool so me giving you advice would be shameful. I will, however, suggest spending a little while googling Deep POV. Just like any writing tool it takes time and practice - but I'm positive you'll get there *crosses fingers* and that I will too!

Elissa Graham said...

Lacey - okay now I officially hate you! You lucky thang. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to own a pair (instead of just locking them up in my cyber shoe cupboard). But it's probably a good thing - I'd spend so much time staring at my feet, admiring the shoes that I'd be run over or walk off a cliff!

Autumn said...

Can you tell me where those shoes are from....or where to get them?