When I
announced that I’d love to know the questions authors would like to ask an
editor, I received quite a few responses. Most of them were about point of view
(POV) and the technique of deep point of view (DPOV). I’ve written about these
before on this blog, but I thought it would be fun to answer the questions they
put forth.
How many POV characters should an author
use?
The answer
to this depends on a number of factors including but not limited to: genre,
formula, audience, and guidelines.
When
writing romance, the conflict is usually between the hero and the heroine.
Therefore, in most circumstances, those two POVs should be the only ones
necessary to your story. Romances are pretty formulaic, and this formula works.
Why change it unless you can prove that other POVs are necessary? Change the
genre to romantic suspense and there may be another POV necessary to convey the
story: the villain. Some authors utilize this extra POV; others keep the
villain in the background.
Other
genres may allow for more POVs, but the important thing to consider is how
necessary those POVs are to telling the story. It is best to keep the POV count
as low as possible. And always check your targeted publisher’s guidelines.
In my character’s POV can he note his own
smile?
The author
who asked this question went on to say that she was told a character
cannot see his smile, so it isn’t natural in that character’s POV to note one. She rightly indicated that she knows when she’s smiling, and thus the
character would know he smiled.
I suspect
the reason for this remark goes a little deeper. Slight POV switches sneak in
when we do have our characters notice something that isn’t natural for them to
remark on in their POV. For example, Terra is the POV character and the author
writes: Terra flashed her winning smile in Robert’s direction. For all Terra
knows, her teeth might have a piece of parsley in it. Even without the parsley,
Terra can’t know if Robert or anyone finds her smile “winning.”
What is DPOV?
Simply
put, DPOV is a technique used by some authors to draw a reader deeply into the
story. To show a contrast, I’d like to share two examples, one scene written
without DPOV and the other using DPOV.
Example
#1:
*The Gulf-side
restaurant’s crowd had thinned since the lunch hour, and Christian waited on
the dock outside as Zed paid the bill. The old man had given him grunt work,
but Christian had enjoyed the labor.
Christian had earned
his way through college working construction and several other jobs that
rounded out his résumé.
True to his word, Zed
had fed him breakfast and now lunch. The man was generous.
That’s
pretty bland, huh? Yet some authors tend to write this way, providing only the
details and skimming the surface of their creativity.
Now,
let’s look at an example that adds meat to the story by delving into Christian’s
thoughts as the scene unfolds.
Example
#2:
*The quaint Gulf-side
restaurant’s crowd had thinned since the lunch hour, and Christian waited on
the dock outside as Zed paid the bill. The work the old man had given him had
been grunt work, but Christian had enjoyed the labor. While Zed kept him away from
the hulls, the resin work, and the major manufacturing of trawlers and fishing
boats, there’d been plenty of cleaning up, stacking, even some inventory to
keep Christian busy and awake.
He might be an
academic, but he’d earned his way through college with backbreaking
construction work and several other jobs that rounded out his résumé: butcher,
baker, candlestick maker. Well, the last was actually soap, and he’d loved that
job, working alongside the gorgeous little bohemian he’d made his bride in her busy
little natural soaps and sundry shop.
True to his word, Zed
had fed him breakfast and now lunch. Christian only hoped Dylan was eating as
good. If not, Zed had paid Christian enough to fill up the truck, find a place
to stay, and grab a meal or two. The man was generous.
Do you
see the difference? Through Christian’s DPOV the reader learns a little about
him and others. We get the idea Christian and maybe Dylan are passing through
town and that this generous boat manufacturer, Zed, has given him work. We also
know Christian is an academic, that he has a wife—somewhere, maybe—and that he’s
a bit worried about Dylan.
Deep
POV allows us to explore insights into our character that a lack of depth
leaves out of our stories. It also allows us to layer. Layering is the art of
blending information into a story without being too obvious. And layering, when
done right, holds a reader’s attention by making us want to know more. For
example, are you curious as to why an academic is doing what he calls grunt
work, and where is Christian’s gorgeous bohemian wife?
What are some words or techniques that
weaken DPOV?
I don’t
care what anyone says, internal monologue, when used for minor details is a
killer of deep POV, and it annoys the fire out of the reader. Outside of
unspoken prayer, internal monologue should only be used for thoughts that need
particular emphasis—and I mean something truly important that adds a wow factor
to the story.
There
are telling phrases that kill DPOV as well. These effectively place the reader
on the outside of the action. Those telling phrases are: “He saw, she watched,
he realized, he knew,” etc. A sentence structured like this: “He saw her walk
down the street” can easily be remedied by taking out the offending telling
phrase and changing the tense: She walked down the street.
The reason
so many authors use this form of telling is because they’re failing to grab
their readers with the deepness of point of view. As stated, when deep POV is
utilized correctly, the reader knows exactly whose head he’s in.
Can I use DPOV in first-person narrative?
Absolutely,
and why would you not want to do this? The problem that I see in many
submissions of first-person narrative is that authors tend to want to slip into
internal monologue. There is simply no reason to use internal monologue except
for unspoken prayer and a thought that needs emphasis. The reader understands that
a story written in first-person narrative is being told through the perception
of the lead character. The deeper into POV a writer can go, the better.
Is it acceptable to begin a story with a
prologue written in third person and the remainder of the book in first person?
My
answer: If it works, yes. What won’t work is a prologue written in third person
that tells the story. What will work? A prologue that has a clear POV from one
character—the one with the most to win or lose from the scene.
And
there we go, a little bit more information on POV and DPOV.
Happy
editing.

*Please
note that the examples used in this blog are the original work of Fay Lamb and
should not be used without permission of the author.

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