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Going Deeper with Deep POV (& a free edit)

What's up, reader/writer types? 

Today, you've got a chance to win a free five-page edit! All you've got to do is comment below the post with two of your own examples. Examples of what you ask? Shallow and deep POV, of course.

Let's talk about deepening your point of view. This is one of the best ways to take your characters from cardboard to jump-off-the-page real. If you'll recall, my (and Gibbs's) Rule #1 is no head hopping. When you write a scene in just one POV, it's like you have tunnel vision. You see (hear, feel, smell, and taste) only what that character experiences. It's as though you've put one of those helmets with a camera attached on their head, so we see exactly what they see.

But that's just POV. If you want to go deep (and trust me, you do), there's so much more than the five senses. There are thoughts, feelings, emotions. Beyond just describing the setting and telling us what the character feels, you can show us. 

This is Rule #2. Show. Don't tell. A great indication that you're showing (and therefore in shallow POV) is when you're using variations of those five sense words: 
  • Leo saw a baby fox streak across the road.
  • I heard the tires screech as the car turned the corner.
  • The chips tasted salty.
  • She could smell fall in the air.
  • The sweater felt like a warm hug.
Or the sneaky weasel . . .
  • I thought he was lying.
Most of the time, it's easy to get rid of these. You can simply delete them. If we're in Leo's POV, and he tells us "the fox streaked across the road," we know he saw it.

If I say, "the tires screeched," guess what. I heard it.

You could even say "the chips were salty," although that's a little dull and tell-y. Better would be, "The salty chips stung my lips."

"The crisp smell of fall hung in the air."

"The sweater clung to me like a warm hug." 

"His shifty eyes told me he was lying."

The second part of this is emotion--the characters' feelings. Don't TELL me they're sad. SHOW me what it feels like to be sad, and PLEASE don't just show them crying. There are so many more original ways to show sadness. Throat burning, chest constricting, eyes stinging. Do they retreat to a special place where they can be alone? Eat their feelings? Call a friend? Bury themselves under the covers for three days?

A GREAT resource for this is The Emotion Thesaurus. You can look up any emotion, and the thesaurus will give you a bajillion examples of physical responses to that emotion. Seriously, if you don't own this, and you write fiction, please buy a copy now. We don't make recommendations like this lightly. Both of us own a copy.

What else? When you write, each POV character should have his or her own voice. The reader should be able to tell within the first paragraph, even the first sentence, exactly whose head they are in. We should be privy to the character's innermost thoughts and experience the story world exactly as they do. A man's thoughts and inner dialogue should not sound like a teenage girl's. Give your characters unique quirks.

Have you ever read a book and felt like the characters stepped out of the pages and sat down next to you to tell you their story? Deep POV creates characters the reader can identify with, laugh with, and cry with.

Don't settle for cardboard cut outs. Don't just skim the surface. Dig down deep, and give your characters life and breath.

Now it's your turn. Give me an example of shallow and deep POV in the comments below. And I'll choose one commenter at random and do a FREE FIVE PAGE EDIT. Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win. And feel free to share, please! Especially if you've got writing friends who could benefit from this win.)

Good luck, and go deep!


  1. Hi guys! Great post as always, and I'll echo your recommendation for The Emotion Thesaurus. Excellent resource!

    Jonathan was having second thoughts. Tex-Mex dinner and skydiving on a first date? What was he thinking?

    Jonathan shook his head, biting his cheek and sighing as he considered the schedule. What if she doesn’t like Tex-Mex? Or jumping from an airplane? She wouldn’t hold that against him, would she? He ran a hand through his hair and glanced at now shiny fingers. Too much Brylcreem?

    tom (at)

  2. Yay for free page edit! That's how I knew that Bethany was "the one." I'll tweet this!

  3. Hello,

    A friend suggested that I check you ladies out. She was very impressed with your edit so here I am (also signed up to be on the mailing list.)

    How about:

    Timothy felt tired vs. Timothy plunked down in the chair next to the couch, long legs stretching into the middle of the room.


    Shay wondered if he thought she was funny. vs. Wouldn’t you know his eyes danced as he tried his best not to snicker?

  4. Welcome, Jan!
    Nice examples. Good luck.

  5. What a great blog! A writing friend just told me about it, and I signed up for the email follow. :)

    Lindsey was so mad she could scream.
    Slamming the front door, Lindsey threw her backpack on floor and tore the letter to shreds, scattering the pieces on the stairs as she ran to her room.

    Thanks for a chance to win.

    laurajacksonwrites at gmail dot com

  6. Great ones, Laura! So glad you stopped by.

  7. 1. Glacing at the barn again in fear her uncle would appear, Jenny's face felt hot as he stuck out her hand. "Nice to meet you, William.".

    2.Her eyes scanned the barn and her face heated. She lifted her chin and stuck out her shaky hand. “Nice to meet you, William. I’m Jenny Louise Parks.”

  8. Oooh, those are good. Thanks for playing along.

  9. Love your blog and the helpful tips.

    “Watch out!” He yelled.
    “Watch out!” He dropped the valise and shoved her back onto the boardwalk..

    1. Good ones! You also used employed Bethany's tip about speaker attributions ( Nicely done.

  10. Here goes: "I pick up a cheap picture frame and catch my fingertip on the corner where the metal edges don't meet. The cut is deep and painful. I pop my finger in my mouth, pin two flaps of sliced skin together with my teeth and probe the wound with the tip of my tongue, sucking metallic-tasting blood into my mouth. My finger throbs clear to my sit bones."

    So, that kind of combines both shallow and deep POV, I think.

    1. That's goooood (and kinda gross). The only shallow part is telling us it's painful. If you were to cut that and move the last line up there, the whole thing would be deep and lovely. But still gross. ;)

  11. 1) The horse stepped on his foot, and it hurt.

    2) The metal horseshoe, bearing the full half-ton of the animal's weigh, threatened to sever his toes from this foot. He let loose a bellow that started at his mangle appendage and ended in the horse's left ear.

    twinwillowsfarm at gmail dot com

    1. Well done. I've had a horse step on my foot a time or two, and he's not wrong. ;) Thanks for visiting. You're entered in the contest.

  12. 1) Sadie wondered if Jay would remember their first anniversary. He pecked her cheek, then grabbed his briefcase and walked to the door. "Have a good day, honey." The door slammed behind him. His yolk-glazed plate remained on the table. She wished she hadn't made him a hot breakfast.
    2) Sadie bit the inside of her cheek and shifted from one foot to the other. Surely Jay wouldn't forget their first anniversary? He pecked her cheek, then grabbed his briefcase and walked to the door. "Have a good day, honey." The door slammed behind him. She glared at the table, where his yolk-glazed plate remained. Happy Anniversary, jerk. Your next breakfast is coming from a box.

    1. Love it, Jericha! And your name. Well done!

  13. Oops! jerichakingston at gmail dot com

  14. She feared she'd gone to far
    The moment the words slipped out, Betsy's gut clenched. Neil's body uncoiled from the chair and he cleared his throat to respond to her charges.

    1. Nice, Susan. I like "uncoiled." Very visual.

  15. We have a winner! Check in tomorrow on Bethany's post to find out if it's you.


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