Friday, September 23, 2011
Like I said yesterday, I came across this article on the Muse Online Conference's Free Stuff page. Just follow this link and check out the sidebar for more articles - http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com/joom/
This cleared up alot of confusion I had over deep POV. Hopefully it will do the same for you.
Deep POV – should you use it? by Christopher Hoare
I first heard about deep POV in 2004 when critiquers in the online writing group I then belonged to urged me to change my writing style. One went so far as to throw an acronym at me, ttsfitch, “tell the story from inside the character”. In my revision I tried to comply, and as you probably know, changing is not an easy task.
What is deep POV?
Simply put it is a style that gains the immediacy and close character involvement of ‘stream of consciousness’ without having to accept the extreme of writing in first person present. This means that the writer can use narrative passages to establish scene and action, but have the POV character carry the internalisation.
In conventional 3rd person: John turned to the computer and tried to remember the password.
Deep POV: John turned to the computer. Now, what was that password?
Here, you can see both the ‘stage direction’ and internal thought that keeps the reader inside John’s mind.
In my Iskander novel “Arrival” I introduce the protagonist’s voice and personality with three words following the first paragraph on page one.
Gisel pushed her way through the doorway as half the crew crowded onto the viewport balcony. The compartment could hold at least fifty while the Iskander was in orbit and everyone floated weightless. After 36 hrs of official silence, the senior officers had decided to let everyone see the mystery for themselves.
About damned time.
Those words from Gisel’s deep POV tell the reader as much about an impatient and irreverent teenager as a whole conventional paragraph might.
Conventionally, an author may have used italics or speech quotes to achieve the same thing – as in About damned time. or even “About damned time.” although then the reader might also picture her as a girl who customarily spoke to herself.
The advantage lies not in these single instances, but in the flow of an entire novel. Properly done, the reader quickly comes to accept the POV character’s internalizations without the distraction of tags or italics. This was what my other critiquer in 2004 wanted to read, to enable him to immerse himself deeper in the story.
The whole flow – action, narrative, and internalisation are accepted as the character’s own without an author persona getting into the scene. And, unlike a stream of consciousness novel, the deep POV can be used for multiple characters – each in their own POV chapter or POV segment.
Recently I found this technique even promoted for non-fiction writing – in this case straight reportage of the Wall Street bailout. This quote is taken from a Der Spiegel interview with author Andrew Ross Sorkin about his book, “Too Big to Fail”.
SPIEGEL: There are many passages in your book like this one: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner goes for a run, the sun rises over the Brooklyn Bridge, and Geithner thinks of all the poor American workers. It sounds like you are inside Geithner's head. It reads like a novel.
Sorkin: This criticism I understand. Bob Woodward, Michael Lewis and Bryan Burrough have all been writing in this construct; and if I am being put in their league I have a hard time complaining.
SPIEGEL: It's not that simple.
Sorkin: I agree, it is delicate. But every time you add "he remembered, he thought, he told me, he said," it builds a wall between you and the reader, and that is why I left these constructions out. Yes, it is a fine line, a boundary, and for this book I have pushed it forward a bit because the whole point of the project was to lead my readers into the rooms where the decisions were being made, and into the heads of those making the decisions.
Okay, so what are the disadvantages of Deep POV?
It has to be done right – and thoroughly. A single ‘she knew’ can crash the whole edifice. This is where your readers and editors are needed to keep you on track – at least – to keep me on track. I admit I have a strong tendency to drift away into conventional narrative. Sometimes a reader doesn’t know what has gone wrong if I’ve been on track until the transgression. I remember an editor flagging a POV error, but it was actually an instance of my deep POV weakening.
Is it hard to do? For me – yes – it might be for you. It’s hard work keeping those ‘he saw’, ‘she thought’ narrative interlopers at bay. But give it a try – if you succeed your readers will appreciate the closeness; even if they don’t, at first, figure out how you managed it. Editors and publishers will appreciate it too.
BIO for Christopher Hoare
I’m retired from surveying and living in a small community in the foothills of the Rockies with my wife of 40 years, Shirley, and two shelter dogs. I now write full time. My post_secondary training was in engineering and my main occupation was as a surveyor in oil exploration and in dam construction. I had little formal writing education – a winter’s evening classes in creative writing and a couple of writers’ workshops. For a number of years I belonged to an online professional novel_writing group and honed my craft by giving and receiving month_long, detailed writing clinics. I now have a local novel writing group where we submit new chapters monthly, as well as a critique group within the membership of SFCanada where we swap novel critiques.
Hope you enjoyed that little tidbit. Til next time - remember, "Just tell the story!"