Writers want to create an immersive experience for our readers. We want to trigger that magical, dreamlike state that’ll keep them deep in our story for hours. If you want to get your readers inside your main character’s head, consider the point of view (POV) you’re writing from. Deep POV, sometimes called close or limited third-person POV, gives you the intimacy of first-person with the flexibility of third-person.
What is Deep POV?
A deep POV puts the reader inside the narrator’s head. Your reader sees and knows only what the narrator sees and knows. Deep POV is the most intimate because it immerses the reader directly in the story, almost like they are your narrator.
Of course, this means you must leave out anything your narrator wouldn’t think, feel, or notice. Everything on the page is filtered through the POV character’s backstory, personality, and mental state.
Pros and Cons of Deep POV
Different stories demand different POV treatments. Consider these pros and cons of writing in deep POV.
- Gets the reader deeply connected with the narrator and immersed in your story world.
- Allows you to conceal details of other characters’ backstories and motivations if your narrator wouldn’t know them. The reader’s view of those characters can evolve along with your narrator’s.
- Provides interesting opportunities to use an unreliable narrator.
- You’re limited to details the narrator knows and sees.
- Narrative voice and character voice are the same. Think about TV shows like Arrested Development and Gossip Girl. The narrator becomes a character and can add lightness to a situation where the characters are taking themselves much more seriously. Deep POV removes all opportunity to use this technique in your story.
- You can’t create suspense by revealing information to the reader that the main character doesn’t know yet.
Five Common Trouble Spots When Writing Deep POV
Introducing a new character:
Imagine you’re introducing your narrator’s mother. Avoid a line like, “Her mother, Karen Taylor, walked in the back door and dropped her keys on the table.” Your narrator doesn’t think about her mother using first and last name that way. Instead, try showing Mom answering the phone and saying, “This is Karen.” Or maybe another character uses her name to grab her attention. In deep POV, characters’ biographical details emerge gradually and organically.
When you walk in your front door, do you notice the color of your couch? Usually not. Omit mundane details that wouldn’t stick out to your narrator. Allow the narrator’s level of interest and their mental state to guide your descriptive details instead. Remember that a bored narrator might let her eyes wander to the water stain on the ceiling, but a frightened or harried one will block out anything irrelevant to that moment.
Just like setting, consider what would come to mind if you were in the narrator’s shoes. Backstory, like character and setting exposition, comes together more organically in deep POV than in a distant POV. As events in your story unfold, allow them to trigger memories and emotions in your narrator. But use a light touch. Your story will lose momentum if you use too many memories and flashbacks.
Voice and vocabulary:
In deep POV, your descriptions are limited to your narrator’s knowledge, personality, and vocabulary. Keep in mind not just what your POV character would say or think, but how she’d say it. If your character is walking through the desert, does she know what type of cactus she’s looking at? If she grew up in Arizona, she might think of it as silver cholla. If she’s from Vermont, it’s just a cactus — but she might observe more details about it because it’s unfamiliar.
Including dialogue and thought tags:
Deep POV omits most dialogue and thought tags like asked, wondered, hissed, or thought. Since we’re in the narrator’s head, we shouldn’t need them. The reader’s imagination should be able to fill in the blanks using the actions and details in the scene.
When writing in deep POV, never stop asking WWND: what would my narrator do? To keep your readers immersed in your story, every line must feel natural and believable — like something your POV character would say, feel, or think. That means putting yourself in your narrator’s shoes and cutting anything that feels out of place.