Deeper Point of View

This content originated from Vonnie Davis’ blog

Vonnie says, “Allow me to share some things I’ve learned. Then maybe you can add what tips you’ve picked up about point of view in your comments. We can learn from each other. How cool is that?
Years ago, books were written in omniscient pov, with the writer as the literary god who knew everything, saw everything, heard everything. By and large, that pov has gone out of style like teased hair and polyester leisure suits. Enter the singular pov. Many mysteries are written in first person pov (I suspected he was a liar.). Novels are usually written in the third person pov of the main character (Molly Brown hated liars.). Romances mainly include the third person pov of the hero and heroine (Fabio had to admit the woman fascinated him).
Remember, pov is the vehicle your reader uses to travel through your story. And you want your reader to ride in style from the words “Chapter One” to “The End.” We don’t want them riding on the front bumper as we tell them the story. No. We want them settled into the cushiony leather seats of our vehicle while we show them the characters, action, emotions and conflict of our story.
To quote Alicia Rasley in her The Power of Point of View (Writers Digest Books, 2008), “we see and hear and feel a particular event from the perspective of one person. We might not consciously think that we are in Johnny’s head and body during a battle scene, but we know that Johnny’s ears are ringing from the artillery fire, his vision is blurring, and he’s seriously considering dropping his weapon and heading for the woods. We get the vicarious experience of exhaustion, despair, and pain without actually having to fight the battle.”
Our goals, as a writer, are twofold. First, we want to tell a good story. Second, we want to draw the reader into the head and body of our pov character. We want our reader to experience everything our character is seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, thinking, smelling and feeling. In effect, we want the reader to become the pov character. We do this by becoming the pov character while we write.
Of course that’s not always easy to do, is it? I have no clue what’s its like being chased by a werewolf, for example, but I do know what it’s like to be chased by a swarm of bees. I know the effects of the “flight or fight” syndrome: heart pounding in my ears, rapid breathing, trembling, dry mouth, clenched stomach and so on. So, if I were to write a scene about being chased by a werewolf, I’d draw on those feelings to show readers what my pov character is experiencing.
Avoid using “she heard” or “she saw” or “she thought.” These phrases distance the reader from the character and are not needed. If we are in Sally’s pov, for example, the reader already knows you, the writer, are writing about what Sally experiences. Let me show you—
Sally stood on the corner waiting for the bus and heard the church bell chime eight times. It was so cold outside this morning she felt a shiver raise goose bumps on her arms. Instinctively, she covered the bruise on her cheek when she saw Mr. George walking toward her. Behind her, she heard Toby, her husband, call her name and turned. Just as she thought, he was still angry. Oh, how she wished she were already on the bus, far away from here.
Now, without the distancers (sorry, I know that’s not a word):
Sally stood on the corner waiting for the bus. The church bell chimed eight times, adding an echo to the crisp coldness of the morning air. She shivered and huddled into the fleecy lining of her jacket, blowing warm breath into her cupped, chilled hands. Footsteps crunched on the snow-covered sidewalk as Mr. George approached. Instinctively she covered the bruise on her cheek, her touch making it throb. She nodded a silent greeting to her neighbor, which he returned. Had he noticed the bruises? Toby called her name, and she tensed. When she glanced back over her shoulder, her husband was running toward her, unshaven, disheveled and clearly angry. Oh, how she wished she were already on the bus, far away from here.
Which scene did you feel more a part of? Since we knew we were in Sally’s pov, the distancers “she heard”, “she saw” and “she felt” were unnecessary.
Now, we’re going to talk about deep pov. In deep pov, we show the reader why. Why does our pov character behave this way? React this way? Think this way? Why does a woman tense when she’s alone with a man? Why does our male character distrust women? Why does a teenager hate family social functions? Why does a man turn to alcohol every day after work?
We all have a history. Our history helps shape our behavior and thoughts. Readers will also understand and accept a character’s bad behavior if they understand the pain or history behind it. This becomes our job as writers to show—not tell—why our characters behave the way they do. We draw them into the character’s head, into their psyche, if you will.
POV is more than knowing whose head we are in. As writers, we seek to draw our readers into the character’s body. By incorporating the senses, we can show them how scratchy wool feels against the skin, how a whisper at the ear can feather the hair, how yucky it feels when water gets into the character’s shoes or how a loud heavy-metal song jangles the nerves. As writers, we help the reader live the experience. We also make the reader privy to the emotional secrets and pains the character carries within. And don’t we all carry around pain from a past experience?
By using deep pov, we add texture, emotion and strength to our writing. Use the power of pov to make your stories memorable. Make the power work for you, your way, your style, your voice.”
Thanks for sharing, Vonnie!
Visit for her blog, Vintage Vonnie for her latest release, Those Violet Eyes
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