Monday, November 7, 2016

A Crash Course in POV: Part One by Annette M. Irby

camera lens with water view*
Hey everyone, Annette here. Today I'm beginning a series on point of view that will continue the first Monday of next month as well. Read on!

One of the biggest issues I see as I’m editing for others is the technique of POV (point of view). There are many reasons for this. Like with many writing rules, trends influence what readers/editors want to see in regards to perspective. I imagine you could name a classic or twelve that uses omniscient POV—a current no-no in fiction for most genres. (More on the definition of omniscient POV later in this series.) As writers, we are influenced by what we read. (If you wonder about this, consider the use of the word “roil” in 97 percent of manuscripts. Show me a few books where that word isn’t included.) If the published books we read contain omniscient POV as narration, we feel that is the “correct” way to write. Unfortunately, that’s not currently the expectation of readers or editors (or agents, who track trends like editors do). 

Very basically, "point of view" is the perspective from which we view the action of a scene.  Many have said to think of POV as what a camera experiences from within that person's head. The five senses as experienced from that person's perspective.

The current preference in fiction? Deep point of view (deep POV). Raise your hand if your editor or crit partner has ever said “I can’t feel this emotion here.” There’s a relatable reason writers avoid deep POV: the process exacts a lot from the writer. Authors have to put themselves in the character’s mind/heart and feel everything that character would feel so that s/he can represent that emotion on the page. Who’ll be the first to sign up for that uncomfortable delve into the human psyche? Yet none of us are exempt. 

Writing mentors will tell you that your goal is to provide a satisfying emotional experience through your fiction. Deep POV provides that.

Let’s define various types of point of view:

Deep POV: Where the author expresses the emotions, view, layers, and experience of the POVC (point-of-view character). This involves diving deeply and showing what that specific character is experiencing as they would. Only what the POVC is feeling, seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting can be included here. One common mistake I see with lack of deep POV is the author telling us what the outer expression of the POVC is. Since we’re reading and not watching a movie, please give us the internal visceral reaction the POVC is having and express that. Sure, she can scowl, but rather than only give us that, give us what she’s experiencing internally. Focus on the internal experience, not the outward appearance. 

Deep POV accomplishes many goals readers and editors want to see:
  • Deep POV lets readers relate with the POVCs, even the villains.
  • Deep POV lets characters feel what the POVC feels.
  • Deep POV lets readers live vicariously through their favorite characters. 
  • Deep POV helps readers sympathize with the characters so they care enough to want to know how things turn out. 
  • Deep POV hooks readers b/c of all of the above and keeps them reading and hopefully telling others how much they loved your book and why they should buy their own copy. (Word of mouth is the golden ticket in marketing.)
A fantastic resource regarding deep POV is Rivet Your Reader with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. I recommend this resource both to my clients and to contestants.
Next month we’ll continue this series, including an explanation of omniscient POV and other POV-related terms. In the meantime, it’s your turn. Do you have any questions on POV? Have you received feedback that helped you, or perhaps confused you? Leave your question/comment below, and we’ll discuss it. There’s a lot to POV, but you can master it and readers will thank you for it. 

Her Nerdy Cowboy

Whoever heard of a bookish cowboy? When Logan McDaniel’s brother-in-law dies, he steps in to help his beloved sister run her ranch. But what does a city boy know of herding cattle? Claire Langley loved her cousin. After he dies, she agrees to serve as a temporary nanny for two heartbroken children. 

Claire and Logan find they share a love of books, and Claire can’t resist the nerdy uncle who is great with children, and who reads to her of pirate romance. Claire’s ailing mother needs her in Seattle. Can she break away? And if she does, can there ever be a future for Logan and her?


Annette M. Irby

Annette M. Irby has three published books and 
runs her own freelance editing business, AMI Editing
See her page here on Seriously Write for more information.


Photo credit: the awesome people at Pixabay.


  1. Oh Annette, I love it when you teach! Excellent post. There is always always something new to learn about deep POV. Looking forward to your next installment.

    1. Thanks, Terri! It was funny how once I started brainstorming on this subject, the word count climbed and climbed. Write on, friend!


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