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Whose Line Is It Anyway? Mastering Deep POV (+ Giveaway!)

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Please welcome Jess Lourey (rhymes with “dowry”) and Shannon Baker back to WU today!

Jess and Shannon have written over 20 books between them, and are currently on their second national blog tour, Double-booked Round Two. Shannon is promoting Dark Signal [2], the second in the Kate Fox series (Longmire meets The Good Wife) and Jess is promoting the 11th book in her funny Murder-by-Month series, March of Crime [3].

A little more about them:

Jess is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing “a splendid mix of humor and suspense.” She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a regular Psychology Today [4] blogger, a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the “Rewrite Your Life [4]” TEDx Talk, and the author of Rewrite Your Life [5], the only book out there which shows you how to turn your facts into healing, page-turning fiction. You can find out more at www.jessicalourey.com [6], and by following her on Twitter [7].

Shannon is the author of the Kate Fox [8] mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy Weimeraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books). She was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year. Learn more about Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com [9] and follow her on Twitter [10].

Today, Jess & Shannon will explore DEEP POV, which can help you connect more with readers. Enjoy!

Whose Line Is It Anyway? Mastering Deep POV

“The anger was long gone, doused in vodka and tamped down to a sour thud. But the memory of it wouldn’t fade. For a few hours there, everything had been clear. The rage was a high, pure note, sounding in your ears, slicing away the junk of life. It was a white light, vicious and merciless, showing the truth if you dared to open your eyes. It was a flashing blade, quicker and cleaner than anything.”

Or:

After a few drinks, I’d calmed down. I’d felt burning anger and it had made me realize the truth. I wouldn’t forget that for a long time.

I don’t need to ask which of these openings grabs you in the gut and makes your heart race. The first makes you feel, while the second tells you how the character feels, setting you, the reader, one degree removed from the story. A master of deep point of view (POV), Catriona McPherson opens her new book, House. Tree. Person. [11] with that first quote.  

What Is POV?

Shannon: My first lesson in point of view, after I learned the difference between first, second, third or omniscient, was the simple rule of picking one character per scene. And the notion to stay true to your point of view character so that the reader can only know or see what your point of view character knows and sees.

For instance, let’s say your POV character is Mabel and she’s married to Dirk. She loves Dirk and thinks he’s perfect. In this scene, she sees him hurry to get off the phone when she arrives and she thinks it’s because he loves her and wants to give his full attention to her.

In the next scene, we’re in Dirk’s POV and he’s not so in love with Mabel. He’s calling his mistress back and apologizing for having to hang up on her. The reader can see both points of view, but the character can’t.

If the first rule of POV means a writer can only put into a scene the perceptions of the character, as if the character’s brain is a movie camera and the reader is inside their head (think Being John Malkovich)  then the idea of deep point of view is turning that camera around and seeing the inside of a character. This–deep point of view–is much harder.

What Is Deep POV?

Jess: Agreed. Deep POV was actually something I thought NOTHING about until I started working with Jessica Morrell [12], a freelance editor we share. I understood the same POV basics–write in first or third, stick to a single POV for your first few books (rather than head-jumping)–but had never heard of deep POV. According to Jessica, it showed in my writing. I often held readers at arm’s length rather than immersing them in the world through my character’s eyes. Deep POV, on the other hand, drops the reader deep into the character’s psyche, creating a sensory, indelible, and intimate experience.  Deep POV is the difference between telling your reader that your character is embarrassed and making them feel the heat on their own cheeks.

Why and How to Go Deep

Shannon: There are simple and then more complex ways to create deep POV. For starters, with basic POV, the writer might use the phrase, “I saw (he saw, she saw).” In deep POV, that phrase is gone, because when you live your life, you don’t think, “I saw the doorknob turn. My heart beat against my ribs. I couldn’t breathe.”

Instead, you’re more like: “The doorknob turned. Maybe it was the babysitter and she’d have hot chocolate and we’d go watch ‘The Brady Bunch.’ But maybe it was something else, with claws not hands, saliva dripping from its fangs. If I moved, or even breathed, I was dead.”

Jess: Exactly. With deep POV, you remove the barriers between the experience and the reader. Essentially, write the scene as the character thinks/sees it by eliminating the dialogue tags or words that indicate reporting. Because deep POV still doesn’t come naturally to me, I search for these words in my manuscript and eliminate them whenever possible:

When it comes to replacing those reporting words with expressive words, I recommend The Emotion Thesaurus [13]. I always have that book by my side when I write. In addition to selecting more sensory words, to achieve deep POV, it’s important as a writer to drop into your character. Think of it like method acting for writers. If your character is feeling profound emotions, draw on your own experience feeling that emotion. Make yourself smell-taste-touch-hear-see your own experience with that emotion as you write that emotion so that it is bursting with firsthand immediacy.

It’s important to note that too much deep POV can be suffocating. Save it for high-tension moments in your story, and you’ll discover readers responding to those scenes at an insane level. Deep POV is definitely a tool every writer should have in their chest!

Shannon: I agree, and I don’t know why the deep POV concept took me so long to understand. One of my Ah Ha moments came when I read The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Check out the opening page. We see the world from Katniss’s point of view and immediately, we know she’s a protector and provider in a world of poverty and deprivation. In a matter of paragraphs! Without Suzanne Collins ever using any of those words.

Our best advice on point of view is to be aware of it, study it in great writing, and learn to use it to sink your readers so deeply into your story they never want to leave.

Jess and I are giving away three each of Dark Signal and March Madness on our Lourey/Baker Double Booked Tour. For a comment, you’ll be entered to win.

Do you struggle with Deep POV? Have questions, or any tips you’d like to share? The floor is yours.

 

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