Deep POV: Narrators Need Not Apply

One of the great balancing acts in writing is knowing when to use your narrator’s voice (the voice of the storyteller) and when to allow your character to tell the story through dialogue or interacting with the environment. In its simplest form, I can write ‘A tall man entered the room’ or I can write ‘He ducked to clear the doorway.’ Both say the same thing, only the second is generally preferred as it adds a visual element.

In first person writing, the voice of the narrator and the voice of the character are the same. ‘I drew my sword and charged the bandits. They would pay for their butchery with their lives!’ In the glory days when writers could get rich off their books, Third Person Omniscient was all the rage. “He drew his sword and charged the bandits. They heard him come and grabbed their weapons, wondering how he had gotten into their camp. He had disguised himself as one of them and had waited until the right moment to strike.’ There you, the reader, are in the point of view of all characters.

In recent years, the trend has gone with Third Person, single point of view. ‘He drew his sword and charged the bandits. He had waited in disguise until the moment was right, and now the moment was right!’ I’ve seldom liked First Person, both in writing and reading (for reasons I will cover in another blog post) and I view Omniscient the way a surgeon today would see the practice of using leeches.

Single Point of View has, and will always be, my thing—especially Deep POV.

Deep POV

Deep POV combines the best of Single Point of View and First Person and it’s a writing style that seeks to diminish the voice of the narrator and take the reader as close to the thoughts and feeling of the POV character as possible. ‘The disguise had worked perfectly. The bandits had allowed him inside their ranks. The fools! Now they would pay for their butchery. He drew his sword and leaped into them. Slash! One went down. Many remained. Good! Bandit blood made the grass grow.’

I adore Deep POV it and use it in my writing. Here is an example from Beneath the Silver Rose:

Shadyia dropped the dagger on the corpse of the man who had grabbed her hair. He could have it back. A drop of blood slid from her chin and stained her short gown as she put her foot on the shoulder of the dying wolfguard and slid free his half-drawn longsword. She swung the blade high over her head and faced Dunstan.

He slashed the air. “Yes, come to me, whore. I’ve killed eleven men in duels.”

The leather-wrapped hilt felt good in her hand. She smirked at Dunstan. No man walked into her home and battered her sisters. “I’ll need to catch up. I’ve only bagged two today.”

Laughter skipped among the women. Lord Dunstan snarled and lunged with an overhand strike, his sword a whistling blur. Their blades met with clang of steel that shocked her arms from wrists to elbows. Dunstan leaped back and thrust forward, a tactic she’d observed when he had killed the fat general. She knocked his blade aside and repeated the move so perfectly he nearly died from his own assault. He recovered and charged, swinging wildly. She sidestepped and smacked his bottom with the flat of her sword as he passed. The sisters laughed and even Amrita rewarded her with a grin.

Do you see?

As you can see, I didn’t write “she felt a drop of blood slid off her chin…” or “she watched as he recovered and swung wildly…” Deep POV requires that the writer not use “saw, watched, felt, wondered, believed” etc–words my editor calls “iffy words.” These things just are.

Here’s another example. In chapter 18, I have Aaron and Shadyia playing Larousse, a board game I invented. Originally, I had detailed the rules strictly in the voice of the narrator. The object of the game is this, to get there you have to do that. Etc. Boring. Deep POV allowed me to tell the rules in a way that was entertaining:

Aaron glared at the board. His previous antagonist had been the master of astronomy at the University in Sullust. The match had lasted nine hours, but eventually Aaron had trapped all four of the professor’s towers and kept all four of his own towers from being trapped. The professor had used every rule to return his captured pieces to the board, but in the end, Aaron’s strategy had prevailed.

Shadyia had won their first game in less than two hours. They were an hour into their second and already she had three of his towers trapped. He had just one of hers.

He pointed at himself. “Do you know how long I’ve been playing Larousse?”

“I know how long you’ve been losing Larousse.”

Oh, you arrogant—he picked up his general and trapped the second of Shadyia’s towers.

See? You, the cherished reader, are deep in Aaron’s thoughts, and therefore in the action. Do you like this writing style? Let me know in the comments. More to come.

Write on!