Do Not Use A Hammer To Fix A Hole

4516627247_e738e6e988_zThe idea that Deep POV is a somehow new and different—an innovative idea in writing—is just hogwash. Some writers/editors who have embraced so fully the whole indie publishing scene have fallen into the abyss, chasing secrets and shortcuts to catapult them to the top of Amazon sales. Chasing after Deep POV is no different.

What is Deep POV, you ask?

Supposedly, Deep POV is third-person subjective “taken a step farther than the normal.” You can read another great piece on Deep POV at She’s Novel and another at The Blood-Red Pencil. The advice and wisdom in all three of these blogs is spot on.

Except, Deep POV isn’t new.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a pretty good example of Deep POV, and that’s a 1962 publication. As I Lay Dying, All Quiet on the Western Front examples of Deep POV.

Deep POV is new jargon for an old technique: removing as much of the author from the narrative as possible, and Deep POV can be written in either first or third. But Deep POV is always limited subjective; no head-hopping from character to character, and the reader gets as close to the protagonist as permissible via the written word.

Deep POV also likes very, very tight writing. Dialogue tags—such as I said, he said, and she said—are dropped altogether. Active voice preferred over passive and progressive voice. Filter words removed, and filter words are those bits that come between the reader’s experience and the character’s point of view—phrases like he thought, she felt, it sensed, she knew. Favoritism is given to showing over telling as well.

The thing is, I give that advice to writers anyway just on general principal. I opened a book the other day, read the opening line, and seriously wanted to vomit.

I heaved my 220-pound lean, muscular body over the railing and felt the scrape of barbed wire against my leg, the blood oozing down my leg.

I reproduced here a facsimile of what I had read, but in no way have I exaggerated. I did not buy the book. I wish the author had hired me as an editor. Or hired anyone as an editor!

What makes Deep POV deep is not the tight active voice writing, but illusion of closeness between reader and protagonist. The author deftly places the reader inside the mind of that single character, and the fourth wall is almost, if not entirely, invisible. And again, the technique isn’t new; but the jargon for what’s technically done is.

Deep POV isn’t for every story, but a lot of novice authors and writers see the hype and believe Deep POV will sell their novel. It won’t. Deep POV or any other structure only assists the story that fits the structure. A lot of memoir, for example, is told from a detached first person perspective with intervening moments of Deep POV.

Deep POV is a tool that must be wielded wisely: do not use a hammer to fix a hole.

Probably, and this is my conjecture, but I believe the hype around POV stems from some of the recent research done on brain function and reading.  In a 2012 New York Times piece, Annie Murphy Paul writes, “The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life.” Perhaps, the closer one can get to the protagonist the less the distinction between real life and fiction? We forget a lot of the other stuff in Paul’s article though—like the brain stimulation induced by metaphor, or the use of concrete language in general.

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