Sunday, February 3, 2013

Using Deep Point of View in Children's Books

I wrote this post last week for my regular guest spot on Donna McDine's wonderful blog, Write What Inspires You.  It is a timely topic in the writing world, so I'm doing a reprise here in case anyone would enjoy reading about this useful technique of getting into one's character's head!

Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of ViewDeep Point of View?  What is it?  Never heard of it.  But I'd like to know more. 

These are the kinds of answers I get many times when I mention this technique of writing. I thought it just may be time to discuss this effective way of truly getting into one's character's head and staying there.  It's time to give the pesky narrator the boot!  Goodbye, author intrusion.

Deep Point of View, sometimes called Close Third Person, can be used with First Person as well and is a writing style in great demand these days.

The reader climbs into their protagonist's skin—tasting, feeling, hearing, smelling what they do.  Deep POV is a skill that must be learned, like anything else. But the four tips below are a great place to start.
(The before and after examples are from my middle grade manuscript Lost on the Skeleton Coast.)
Tip 1: Delete the phrase "s/he saw"

Obviously not every use of the word saw (observed, noticed, wondered, etc.) will be slashed. But go through your manuscript looking for lines like these:
Olivia smiled at her uncle. She saw that he was really into it now. 
And change to:
Olivia smiled at her uncle. He was really into it now. 
State the action only. Saw always distance the reader. Bring the reader up close instantly.

Tip 2: What words would you say in the manuscript?

Use realistic internal dialogue. What you would say to yourself if you were living the scene, then replace the pronouns with "s/he" (unless you're writing in first person, of course.) 

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character ExpressionExample:   She felt the knife's blade rub her throat.  The metal felt so cold.  She had to stay still and keep from blinking. Olivia was panicked. 
Deep Point of View:  The knife's blade rubbed her throat.  Why was the metal so cold?  Sweat dripped into her eyes, burning them.  What does it feel like to die?

Tip 3: Don't label emotions.

This is classic show vs. tell but is vital to Deep POV. Delete from your mind the name we give to an emotion and force yourself to describe it.  What physical movements would show the emotion without naming it?
Example: Anger 
Olivia was angry.

becomes:   Olivia's eyes became slits. 

Tip 4: Physiological responses

Once you lay out some strong internal dialogue and remove emotion labels, follow up with physiological responses. Depending on the situation, these might be knees buckling, throat clamping, an adrenaline rush, goose bumps, nausea, dizziness, sweating, etc. Describe those. This will really pull the reader deep into the story, particularly in high-intensity moments.
Example:  Excessively hot
Olivia was too hot.
becomes:  If only Olivia could remove the enormous blanket of heat bearing down on her.  Breathing hard, sweat poured from her body and dried quickly.  "We all have to drink, or we're not gonna make it."  A frog's croak.  Was that her voice?
I hope this post has encouraged you to throw out all the distance-making words in your manuscript.  Let yourself be invisible.  Allow your protagonist to shine through those pages.  You'll be happy with the results, and so will your readers!

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