What is Deep POV?
One decision every writer must make is choosing from which point of view to tell a story. The third-person point of view (or POV) is a popular choice and can often be the easiest for new writers to tackle. There are, however, a few different ways in which to write the third-person point of view, including omniscient, close (limited), and deep (immersive).
In this post, we’re going to learn more about the deep third-person POV, which plunges into the thoughts, feelings, and reactions of a character in a way that feels almost as intimate as the first-person point of view while remaining in the third-person. Before we dive in, though, let’s look at the different third-person points of view.
Third-person points of view
Third-person points of view are told using pronouns such as “he”, “she”, or “they.” It’s as if the narrator is watching the story unfold and is relaying what they see back to the reader. The narrator is a bystander, a reporter of the story, and not a participant or a character in it. This differs from the first-person point of view, in which the narrator is a character in the story and uses pronouns such as “I”, “me”, and “my.”
Let’s look more closely at the different third-person points of view.
In the omniscient POV, the narrator is all-seeing and all-knowing. They can peer inside the heads of any character and be in all places. As a result, the reader has access to all characters’ thoughts, feelings, and reactions, as well as all details of what’s happening in the story's world. A fantastic example of the omniscient third-person point of view is in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, in which the all-knowing character, Death, narrates the story.
Third-person limited (close)
In the third-person limited point of view, the narrator, and thus the reader, has access to only one character’s inner thoughts, feelings, and reactions, thus limiting the reader's exposure to information to that of one character. In limited POV, the narrator can’t get into the heads of other characters to see what they are thinking or feeling. One example of third-person limited POV is J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, in which the events are portrayed through Harry’s point of view.
The deep third-person point of view takes the reader even deeper into a character’s inner world, allowing them to experience the story as if they are inside the character’s head and seeing the scene play out as the character does. The story is being told from so deeply within the experience of the POV character that the narrator doesn’t even seem to be present.
The deep third-person POV is intimate, almost as much so as the first-person point of view, but remains in third-person, using pronouns such as “he”, “she”, or “they”. The narrator holds nothing back from the reader when exposing the character’s inner life. The reader sees and feels events just as the character does.
Tips for writing deep third-person POV
Now that we’ve discussed what deep third-person POV is, let’s look at some tips on how to write in deep third-person POV.
Avoid dialogue and action tags
First, get rid of dialogue and action tags. Because the deep third-person point of view reveals the character’s inner world of thoughts, feelings, and reactions, the reader knows they are in the character’s thoughts, so you can remove tags such as “he said”, “she noticed”, “he felt”, or “she thought”. Instead, drop your reader right into your POV character’s head and let the reader think, see, and feel exactly what the character thinks, sees, and feels. If you must keep the tags, bury them in the middle of the sentence.
Take this example from Joanna Bourne’s The Forbidden Rose:
He could have been a solider, surveying a captured city, preparing to raze it and salt the earth, or a builder, inspecting the blocks of a fallen Roman villa, calculating tonnage, planning to buy and transport the marble. As she watched, he pulled his hat off and slapped it against his thigh. There was decision in that motion. The whisper of great force, held easily in check.
I do not like this at all.
He carried no sign to say he was Crow's messenger. A red ribbon with a knot in it, any bit of red cloth, knotted, would be enough. He was only a stranger in her domain, pointless and useless to her.
You have no business here. Go away.
In this scene, Bourne doesn’t use a single dialogue tag. The reader sees the sudden appearance of the man through the POV character's eyes, and the description of the man as being like "a soldier, surveying a captured city," makes it clear to the reader that his arrival is not a welcome one. Even though the words “she thought” are not on the page, the reader knows the character views this man not just as a stranger, but as a threat.
Share more inner dialogue and physical reaction
In order to write effectively in deep third-person POV using fewer dialogue and action tags, your character’s inner dialogue and physical actions must take center stage. You can also choose spoken words that show the character’s personality. Doing so helps create a strong character voice on the page.
For example, if your middle-grade character's younger sibling vomits on his shoes, you can use the deep third-person POV to take the reader directly inside the character’s head to reveal what he is thinking. Pair the inner dialogue with a direct physical reaction to make the reader experience the scene even more deeply, such as, “Charlie winced, pinched his nose, and squeezed his eyes shut tight. Gross.”
Dialogue tags aren’t necessary for a reaction like this. The reader knows how Charlie feels by his physical reaction, and what he is thinking by his inner dialogue.
Show, don’t tell
You’ve likely heard this advice before, but it bears repeating: show your reader what the POV character is experiencing and feeling rather than telling them. You want the reader to become immersed in each scene as if they are watching it unfold from within and not simply being told what is happening.
Take this passage from Scott Kershaw’s heart-stopping novel, The Game:
She hangs up. Her thumb does it for her, her body working faster than her brain.
Two minutes away. Two minutes. She needs to move. Now.
One more glance at the image on her phone–the photograph of her boy–is enough to get her going.
She yanks a pair of red high-tops onto her feet, bursts out of her apartment and hurtles past the bloody footprints and down the staircase through the belly of the building.
In this paragraph, Kershaw could have told the reader what Maggie was thinking and doing, but he took the reader inside her head to reveal her thoughts while using action-packed verbs to show her reactions.
You’re ready to write in deep POV!
By following the tips listed in this post, you’re ready to write in the deep third-person point of view with confidence. Remember, immerse your reader directly into the scene by removing as many dialogue and action tags as possible. Create a strong voice using inner dialogue and physical reactions. Finally, show what the character is experiencing and thinking through their inner dialogue and action rather than just telling. With these tips in mind, you’re ready to create dynamic and powerful scenes written in the deep third-person point of view.