How to Write Deep POV

Photo credit: queensu on Flickr
So I've been doing lots of critiquing for clients lately, which means I've been thinking a lot about point of view and how to delve into point of view effectively. I find that this is really essential for a lot of reasons, most importantly because oftentimes when readers find they can't connect to a character, it's because this is missing—the connection to the character on a level that feels real.

Without a connection, readers put a book down—and shallow point of view can often be a big factor into why.

So how do you write deep point of view? How do you establish that connection? While a foolproof, guaranteed system doesn't exist (because, of course, all readers are different), there are five things that play into a point of view that feels real.

  1. Through their eyes. So I wrote a whole post about writing description through character a while back, so I won't reiterate that part in too much detail, but the thing to remember is when you're writing in either first person or limited third, everything should be filtered through the POV character's eyes. Description isn't neutral; it's an extension of the POV character's mind. What seems to be to your character, in their POV, is until later proven not to be. 

  2. Thoughts. When writing in close POV, readers should be privy to all of your POV character's thoughts. What they think about other people, their attitudes toward any given situation, how they interpret events around them, etc. Remember to think about what your character is thinking about at any given moment, so we understand what the world and events mean to them.

  3. Emotions. Similarly, whenever something happens to your character, you want to think about how it makes them feel. Missing emotion is a pretty common reason why readers don't connect to characters; after all, it's really hard to empathize with someone who is emotionally shutting you out. This is something I've struggled with in my own writing—in early drafts of Beyond the Red, for example, Kora was so set on being strong that she shut me, the writer, out and made it really hard for me to figure out what she was feeling as the events took place. It took a lot of focused revision and prodding on my part to really delve into her character and get her to show me, and the readers, that she wasn't as cold as she sometimes to seemed to be.

    Related to this, however, is making sure that you show your POV character's emotions rather than telling the readers about them. Saying "I was angry" isn't nearly as effective as showing that anger, from the ways it physically affects your character to how it tints their thoughts, dialogue, and actions. I wrote a post about writing emotion effectively a while back focused on this exactly, and I very highly recommend The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, which makes showing emotion exponentially easier.

  4. Physical sensations. From the five senses, to pain, to how emotions physically affect your POV characters, physical sensations are essential to making the readers feel as though they're experiencing what your POV character does. By immersing readers in sensory images as your POV character experiences the world, you'll pull them deeper into your book.

  5. (No) filtering. And last, but not least, removing filter phrases is a great way to strengthen writing and deepen perspective. Filter phrases like "I saw," "she realized," "he felt," "they smelled," etc. all distance readers from the perspective because it adds a layer of writer-speak that subtly reminds the readers they're reading a book. I explain in detail about this in the linked post, so I won't say much more, but limiting the amount of filter phrases you use can be a great way to further deepen POV.

So those are five ways to help forge a connection between your POV character and your readers. It can be a lot of work, and totally something you can save for revisions, by the way, but it's work that I find ultimately pays off every time.

Have you tried any of these methods to deepen character POV in your writing?

Twitter-sized bites:
Struggling to get readers to connect to your characters? @Ava_Jae shares 5 POV-deepening tips. (Click to tweet
How do you get readers to connect to your characters? @Ava_Jae shares 5 tips. #writetip (Click to tweet

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