Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Deep POV: Getting in Character and Staying There by Kelly Irvin

Readers have told me that by the time they finish reading my novels, they feel as if they are part of the heroine’s family. Readers have written asking if the baby was a boy or a girl—as if he was born after the story ended. How does a writer do that? Take readers so deeply into a character’s life and keep them there so that they feel they’ve lived the story?

It’s craft, storytelling, setting, but it’s also something called deep POV (point of view). It’s not an easy technique to master, for beginning fiction writers or writers who’ve published numerous novels. I still have to work at it with every manuscript. How do I do it? Here are some tips for getting in character and staying there:

  1. First eliminate filter words that separate a character from the reader. Put the reader in the character’s POV and leave her there. That means seek out and destroy these words: she said, she wandered, she decided, saw, heard, smelled, hoped, realized, watched, touched, felt, knew, remembered, decided, noticed. All telling words that keep the author on the page.
  2. People don’t think: I thought, I realized, I saw. If you’re in deep POV, your character shouldn’t either. Let your character just do it without the signpost words. Show, don’t tell. What does the experience remind the character of? What memories are triggered by the scene’s event?
  3. Eliminate emotion words such as anger, fear, anxiety. Again, show, don’t tell. “Fear ran through her,” becomes: “Jennie’s mouth went dry. Her stomach heaved. The hot dog didn’t want to stay down. Purple spots dotted her vision.”
  4. Be careful with outward physical descriptions of the POV character. She can’t see her own face. “The man leered. Jennie’s face went red,” becomes “The man leered. Heat like a third-degree burn seared Jennie’s face.”
  5. Word choice always reflects the character’s education and experiences. Their station in life. Dialogue should fit the character. How they talk. Internal monologue or how they think should also be expressed in words they would use. You have to know your character well and become her while writing.
  6. Don’t use too many words or take time to describe something out of the ordinary. Only describe things your character would notice in the exact way the character will notice. In other words, write third person as if you’re writing first person. You can only see, hear, smell, taste, and feel what the POV character does. React with the emotions the character would have. Not your own. The emotional reaction can only come from the character. That is true of everything in the scene. Stay in character when talking about the other characters, setting, and object descriptions.

Remember these are tips, not rules. Write in your voice. And make your own decisions about when telling will move the story along and showing bogs it down. Follow your own instincts. Remember, it’s your story.

What has been the hardest aspect for you to grasp when it comes to deep POV?


Two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist Kelly Irvin is the author of the critically acclaimed Amish of Bee County, Bliss Creek Amish, and New Hope Amish series. Her newest release is Beneath the Summer Sun, the second novel in the four-book series Every Amish Season from Zondervan Publishing. Her work has also appeared in four Amish anthologies, An Amish Market, An Amish Summer, An Amish Christmas Love, and An Amish Christmas. Kelly is a retired newspaper reporter and public relations professional who lives with her husband in Texas. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two ornery cats.