POV (Point of View)...

So much in life is a matter of perspective. The same is true for story. Movies move from scene to scene giving us a view of what is happening through the lens of the chosen character. We feel Luke Skywalker’s irritation when he wants to leave his home planet and get away from the farm, but we are most deeply engaged when he faces that decisive moment to act. His family has been slaughtered by the Empire, and he is going to do something about it, to make things right. Had that story been told to us from a narrator rather than shown to us in Luke’s point of view (POV) we would not care as much. POV lets the reader engage in a story. The deeper the POV, the more meaningful the reading experience. What is deep POV? First let me explain POV in general. Point of view is how the character sees their world. How they feel and act and think. Deep POV is the same thing only the author takes the reader to a deeper level of feeling, fully immersing them in the character’s head. It’s the difference between dangling your toes in the ocean and plunging into the waves.

Here are two examples – the first of normal POV, the second taking it a step deeper.

Third person – Sarah’s POV

Sarah walked slowly down the stairs trying to decide whether she could hold down eggs or cereal. Her stomach turned over at the thought, and worsened as the scent of fresh bacon and coffee wafted to her from the kitchen. Her mother was supposed to be at work by now. What had happened to keep her home? Mom knew better than to cook such foods while Sarah had to deal with morning sickness. When was she going to listen and do as Sarah asked? Irritated, she rounded the bend from the foyer to the kitchen ready for another fight, and stopped dead in her tracks.

“Sam? What are you doing here?”

While this is strictly in Sarah’s point of view, it’s more of a surface point of view. We do know what is happening, and we even sense Sarah’s frustration, but we don’t really feel the extent of her emotion. Let me try again:

Third person – Sarah’s deep POV

Sarah’s stomach growled, and she gripped the railing to keep her balance. Mornings came too early. She blinked hard, fighting grogginess, wishing she could ignore the hunger. Eggs or cereal? Blech. Both sounded nauseating. She placed a protective hand on her middle. This baby was draining what little was left of her energy. Would the morning sickness never end? She stopped at the fourth step from the bottom. What was that smell? Maple? No, bacon. Bacon and coffee. Ugh. She stood still taking deep breaths. Mom wouldn’t make such a combination, would she? Not when she knew those smells made Sarah sick.

Her hands clenched as the anger grew. How many times did they have to fight about such stupid little things? Covering her mouth and nose to block the smell, she drew in a deep breath, plunged down the rest of the stairs, and barged into the kitchen.

“Sam?” All strength seeped away at sight of the man who had walked out on her three months before. “What are you doing here?”

While deep POV can make a scene longer, the emotion should give the reader a better experience, so the added length is worth it for showing us what the character is thinking and feeling.

Some other things to keep in mind about POV is that a character can only “record” what they can see. A character cannot read minds unless he’s omniscient, therefore, he can’t know what is going on in another character’s head. She cannot see herself unless she looks in a mirror, so she is not normally going to think about her hair or eye color. We wouldn’t say, “She looked at Sam, her blue eyes brimming with tears,” or “She tucked the loose strands of her blonde hair behind her ear.” Those are things Sam could see, but Sarah could not. Sarah could feel the tears blinding her, and she might tuck her hair behind her ear, but she wouldn’t stop to consider that her hair is blonde.

For more on point of view, there is a great book called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. They’re better at explaining POV than I am. If you’re serious about writing fiction, I highly recommend it.

Happy writing~