As an author I dream of writing page-turner fiction and as a reader, I hope each and every book in my to-read pile is an adventure I’ll lose myself in. If you’re like me, you might be seeking that kind of uber-exciting fiction, too.
Recently, Heather Luby, an instructor with University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Continuing Studies Writing Program, who is also a writer and developmental editor, gave a workshop, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Achieving intimacy through Voice and Deep POV, at a Wisconsin Romance Writer meeting, that just might help to authors create compelling fiction.
She introduced a technique called Deep Point of View, which is a method of telling a story that puts the reader directly into the head of the main character. Here are thirteen of the tips she dropped that help writers and readers alike drop into the character’s skin.
First, cut filter words like: thought, wondered, saw, decided, looked and felt.
For example: He saw the woman pull the 9mm from the waistband of her tight jeans and point it at him. (becomes) The woman pulled the 9mm from the waistband of her tight jeans and pointed it him.
Including filter words creates a situation that has the reader watching the character perceive things and distances the reader.
Next, avoid naming emotions. Describe them instead. For example: A vein pulsed in Rachel’s forehead. She narrowed her eyes and spat, “You’ll get yours.” is more interesting than saying, Rachel was angry.
Characters come alive in details, so have them notice the unique things about their situations. Heather gave the example of having a character repair the hem of her dress with scotch tape. The detail adds interest and says a lot about the character.
Limit your character’s knowledge. Not only is this limit more realistic, none of us know everything, but mystery and intensity hook readers.
In other words, only reveal things that your character would actually know.
The point of view character will be blind to certain story elements and this will string readers along.
Write in the main character’s voice. Pretend you’re a method actor, that you really are the main character. The Deep POV technique strips away the author’s voice.
Ditch dialogue tags. Use action tags instead. For example: change “I’ve got to go,” James said, hurriedly to “I’ve got to go.” James scooped up his bookbag and bounded out of the classroom.
On a similar note, avoid modifiers like angrily, and sadly. You shouldn’t have to tell the reader that a character is angry or sad. Instead, show that emotion.
Be careful when you identify character’s relationships. Although it’s quick to write James, my brother, is sitting at the lunch counter, it isn’t a thought that a character would have. Since the character knows who his brother is, he wouldn’t have to use the identifier (my brother) in his thoughts.
Heather suggested an author make the character’s relationships clear through dialogue, a memory or through actions. For instance, a character should address James and say, “Mom always liked you best.”
Although you might not use Deep POV for an entire novel, Heather believes you should consider it during pivotal moments or decisions, highly emotional scenes.
Obviously, Deep POV isn’t something you can learn with a mere thirteen tips, but Heather Luby’s advice just might start you on the way to writing those stories readers can’t put down.