Friday, June 6, 2014

Deep POV (Limited Third Person)

One of the first things to decide when writing your novel is who tells the story. The two most popular choices are third person and first person. We hear much about both, but a reminder is always in order.

In first person narration, one character tells the whole story. The reader views and understands everything through one person’s eyes. Note this method used by debut author, Ladonna Cole, in a fantasy YA, The Torn:


          “No, Greg, You did not create them, but you can

    control them. Tell them to go away.”

          He grimaced at me and his face cracked with

    grief. I knew he didn’t believe me, yet, I was

    determined to convince him.


Notice the use of the letter “I”, and the word, “we.” The protagonist, Kate, tells the story. Readers know nothing away from what she sees, feels, hears, experiences.


I tell the story in my debut YA novel, Victoria and the Ghost, in third person. Notice the difference from this quote:


          Victoria moved to a cluster of graves at the southern

     back fence and began her work. Squatting hurt her legs.

     When she plopped her hips on the hard ground and stretched

     the kinks from her legs, she heard rattling. Movement

     caught her peripheral vision.


Notice in that excerpt, there’s no “I” or “we.” Instead, it’s “Victoria” and “she” that tells the events.


Several years ago, an agent described my third person novel as being in omniscient point-of-view.” I didn’t understand the criticism until I recently read an article by Mark Canter in my copy of the RWR magazine (put out by Romance Writers of America).


Canter says third person can be told in two forms, limited and omniscient. He describes omniscient as the narrator being a “disembodied witness who hovers over the characters and their actions, telling the reader exactly what’s going on externally and also inside each character’s heads.” His definition of limited third person is picking one character at a time and experiencing the story as if the reader is that character.


Years ago, I took a course called Deep Point-of-View. The teacher used this phrase as a method to put the reader into the character’s skin, not just hearing about it from the character.


Two examples:


     Calvin watched the man lift a gun and point it with shaky fingers at Calvin. Fear swept over him. He halted wondering if he could overpower his enemy in time to live.


     Calvin’s heart bounced with each bob of the gun. He took one step, two …. Sweat trickled down his temple. Click. The next sound would be a bang, but by then, he would be dead. His legs froze.


Which example puts you better into the character’s skin?
That’s deep POV.


Try writing your own examples, both hearing it through the POV character and then living it with the POV character. Feel the difference. Write like you’re experiencing it in real time.


Two more examples to help you get started:


     Renee awoke and looked around her. A bright light was shining in her face. The wall was a stark white, but she saw colors moving around her bed. Her arm was restrained by an IV. She wondered if she was still in Hawaii.


     Renee awoke and squinted against the bright light. A kaleidoscope of colors swirled against a stark white wall. An IV restrained one arm.

     Was she still in Hawaii?

Both examples give the same information. The first gives the story through Renee’s eyes. In comparison, though the second one gives it through Renee’s point of view, too, the reader lives it with her.

Notice the differences:


Deep POV uses more active verbs, less passive.

Deep POV doesn’t use filtering words such as she saw or she looked.

Deep POV shows, doesn’t just tell.

Deep POV makes you feel it along with the character.
In Deep POV, the writing is tighter.


What about you?


Do you write omniscient third person or limited third person, better known as deep POV?


Other helpful sites on this topic are:





  1. When I reading limited third person or first person I realized how much I preferred deep point of view to third person omniscient. I never write in the latter.

  2. Me, neither, Cheryl. Strange how I used to think it was good. Fortunately, we do learn.

  3. Thanks, Janet. Your examples point out the subtle differences. I find that my first drafts, unfortunately, tend to lean omniscient. II focus on putting the reader into the character's shoes during the revision phase. Helpful post!

  4. I so agree, Suzanne. Omniscient POV does show up in 1st drafts. The best way is to remember to live as you write it. Don't you just love getting that absorbed in the story.

  5. I've been learning DPOV for the last three years. Right now I am revising romances I wrote in the 1990s to incorporate DPOV and do away with head-hopping. It's a real challenge, but readers today dislike head-hopping and expect a more compelling experience. So DPOV is what I aim for, but it's a struggle at times.
    Donna Winters

  6. It is a struggle, Donna, but the reader really gets into the book better. Good luck on your rewrites.