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Wednesday, August 2, 2017



When we read fiction, we like to get into the story and go on an adventure with the lead character/characters. We become fully engaged when we know what the hero is thinking, how an event or situation affected him, what he really wants, and what his secrets are. Any time we get into the mind of the character, we are in deep POV and, as readers, we are now engaged in the story. But going deep with POV isn’t that easy to write. Principles of writing and a great deal of thought goes into writing the story with a deep character POV.
I recently came across an article that had the principles for writing deep POV listed. I like lists. They make it all much easier for me to understand and apply the information.

1.   Limit Your Character's Knowledge
This makes so much sense when you think about it. If you’re in the character’s head, just like your actual life, you cannot hear what’s going on across town. You have no idea the boss is planning on laying off 30 employees and you are one of them. You can’t know these things because you have limited knowledge—unless you’re God, of course. So, your character can only know things he overheard, witnessed, or learned from someone else, except in a fantasy novel where the character might learn something through magic or a dream.

2.   Do not use “filter words”.
Filter words show that someone wrote this, oh, like an author maybe. "Thought", "wondered", or "saw" are filter words.


Out of POV: She thought she saw a dragon fly above her head and wondered if she was in danger of being burned alive by its fiery breath.

In POV: The dragon flew across the sky above her head and she realized she needed cover to prevent burning alive from its fiery breath.
3.   Limit Your Dialogue Tags.
Dialogue tags are those pesky little identification markers such as “he said”, “she cried”, or "he whispered". Once again, these tags show authorship and take the reader out of deep POV. A much more effective way to denote who is talking is by having the character do something while speaking. I particularly like this method because it also creates action and drives the story along.
Out of POV: “You never help me do anything around the house,” she shouted.
In POV: She rattled the dishes into place on the shelf above the sink. “You never help me do anything around the house.” She slammed one more plate into the soapy dish water and frowned.
4.   The Ultimate Show, Don’t Tell.
This is a classic piece of writing advice we have heard over and over again. Since deep POV is all about digging into your character’s mind, it means everything has to be present in this moment. You can’t dump in a bunch of back story or descriptions. It all has to be like the character’s natural thought process.
This advice extends to emotions. An old writer friend of mine once told me about this problem I had in my writing in which I identified emotions and that was out of deep POV. She gave me some good advice when she said, “Ask yourself what heartbreak feels like, what rejection feels like, or what loss feels like.” Describe the emotion rather than just identify it.
Out of POV: He knew his wound was mortal and he was about to die.
In POV: Falcon shuddered at the sight of his gaping wound. Death rode toward him on its ebony steed, its dark cloak billowing in the wind created by the speed of its ride.
“Don’t be in such a hurry.” His voice rasped as he spoke to the phantom.  Hysteria bubbled up from the depths of his chest and he laughed at his own predicament, a hollow sound that echoed harshly against the ancient stones.  
5.   Don’t Use Passive Voice.
Passive voice is a way of structuring sentences that makes the action being done to a character rather than being done by someone.
Passive: Lilith was thrown to the ground with a knife placed at her throat.
Active: Sid threw Lilith to the ground and held a knife to her throat.
Some of you may have heard of this little trick to identify passive voice. If you write "by zombies" after your sentence and it makes sense, you're writing in passive voice. For instance--"Her lips were zombies!"
Yuck! Just sayin’…
6.   Be Careful When Identifying Characters.
In Deep POV, it’s a little more difficult to show a character’s relationship to another character.
Wrong way: Hank, Kyle’s cousin, was standing in the street holding a horse by its bridle.
Right way: Hank stood in the street holding a horse by its bridle.
It’s best to use dialogue to convey the relationship:
“What are you doing with a horse in the middle of the street, Cousin?” Kyle shouted over the gathering crowd of onlookers.
A few last words:
One of the perks in writing deep POV is that your character can fill in back story as memory flashbacks from time to time and it seems more natural ‘cause you’re already in his head.
There are times when your character may be a little mentally distant if they suffered some kind of trauma. In this case your character might be too fuzzy-headed for the reader to get into his head. You would have to make the character’s observations a bit shallow and therefore, step away from deep POV for a short time.
Deep POV gives the writer an opportunity to draw vivid pictures to craft the story scenes as seen by the character. Using all five senses will create a vivid picture that could even read like poetic prose.

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar, and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. A very good read, I particularly liked the examples.

    1. Wny thank you, Susan. The quotes aren't from my books, but I did use my characters. I was terrible dealing with POV issues when I started out.
      Thank you so much for coming.

  2. An excellent post, covering so much in short and understandable bites. Doris

  3. I'm glad I used my own words since you liked the simple way I put this info out there. I had to REALLY understand it myself to be able to explain it to others. I can't always apply it, but at least I know what SHOULD happen. LOL
    I appreciate you coming and for your very nice compliment, Doris.

  4. Sarah,
    This is a great post. It's always good to get a refresher on the pitfalls when writing deep POV. It's so easy to use filter words and not even notice it. And I'd never heard the trick of adding 'by zombies' at the end of a sentence to check for passive voice. A great trick!! LOL

    1. Oh my Kristy, some of my early work was like a zombie apocalypse! I needed this reminder myself, That's why I searched and then found a list that I found helpful to me.
      You're always so supportive and kind. Thank you!

  5. Replies
    1. I appreciate your kind words, Savanna. Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment.

  6. Sarah,

    Do you find yourself adding layers of deep POV each time you make a pass-through edit? I do. In fact, I'm often embarrassed at how shallow I wrote the character. Thank goodness stories don't have to be perfect with the first draft.

    1. Kaye, you're absolutely right. I'm editing some of my first published work right now and I am horrified at the lack of deep POV. It's almost a rewrite.
      I think sometimes I could edit over and over again and still miss something. Ohmagosh, first drafts are always loaded with problems. Yikes!
      Thank you for coming, Kaye. I really do appreciate it.

  7. Sarah, sorry I'm a day late. What an excellent post. I love the points and the examples you used. One thing I really cringe at when I'm editing is when an author writes, "Little did she know..." or "He had no way of knowing that just around the corner..." AGGGHHH! LOL But many of these examples are very easy to fall into. In one of my contemporary novels, I found myself writing, "He knew that if he didn't do blah blah..." SIGH. Lots and lots of correcting to do on that one. LOL

    Always love your posts, Sarah.

    1. Cheryl, I saw an article on how to write foreshadowing, but I haven't had a chance to actually read it yet. I looked at the examples you gave and immediately my mind raced back over all my past writing wondering if I did that. I'm sure I have. I've done just about every writing faux pas there is. LOL
      Thank you for the nice compliment about my posts. I worry myself to death about writing blogs. Wouldn't it be awful to research the hound out of something, pour out your heart in a blog, and nobody came?
      Thank you so much for your comment. I know you're insanely busy so I wasn't expecting to see you here. Nice surprise for me.