Deep POV: The Silent Soliloquy
It is my lady; O, it is my love!
O that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold. ‘tis not to me she speaks. (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene ii)
In Shakespearean plays, soliloquies allow the audience to know the thoughts of the characters as they stand on stage and talk to themselves. It is in this way Hamlet examines his indecision whether to be or not to be; Romeo considers Juliet’s likeness to the sun, and Lady Macbeth wrestles with her guilty conscience.
In novels, we depend upon exposition, narrative, and dialogue to understand a character’s inner dialogue. Traditionally, a character’s thoughts were indicated by the tag “he thought” or “she wondered.”
Example: He thought she was beautiful from afar, but when he saw her up close, he realized she was the most gorgeous creature in existence.
In our modern culture of abbreviating and consolidating in order to maintain a reader’s attention, authors have learned to write tight—keeping redundant words to a minimum. In the case of point of view (POV), filter words like “he thought” or “she saw” are made redundant.
Compare the example from above, written in a traditional format, to a tighter, more immediate POV.
She was beautiful from afar, but up close, she was the most gorgeous creature in existence.
By eliminating some of the extraneous language (he thought, he saw, he realized), the reader is drawn more quickly into a deeper understanding of the character’s thoughts. This is called deep POV.
Deep POV is a fairly new technique, rising in popularity over the past three or four decades. The benefit to cutting out the narrative noise is that it allows the reader direct access into the mind of the character. The reader hears the thoughts as they are formed in the character’s mind, not as hearsay.
Shallow POV: He felt awful. He looked across the room and saw that Cathy was leaving. He guessed he hadn’t done the things she wanted. He knew he shouldn’t be surprised at her departure.
Deep POV: A lump rose in his throat and his chest tightened. Across the room, Cathy thrust one arm then another through the sleeves of her coat and picked up her purse. Was she really leaving? Yes. She was. Why hadn’t he just sucked it up and said the words? They were only words after all. But he was a coward. So, of course, she was leaving.
The idea is to remove as much author intrusion as possible and make your reader feel they are living the character’s experience. Because we all like to get lost in a story, right?
Authors intrude in dialogue when they constantly say who said what and with what emotion. Eliminating or minimizing dialogue tags increases the effect of deep point of view.
“Don’t’ go there!” She screamed in horror. “They’ll kill you!”
He stopped and turned. She saw that his eyes were red-rimmed with sorrow and regret. “I have to do it. You know I can’t leave them there to die,” he said.
She grabbed his arm, her heart pounding with panic. “Please … I’m begging you,” she gasped.
“Don’t go there!” The words tore from her throat. “They’ll kill you!”
He stopped and turned. His eyes were red-rimmed. Could he be thinking about all that had passed between them? Or maybe he considered everything that could have been. “I have to do it. You know I can’t leave them there to die.”
She reached out, her fingers sinking into the fleshy portion of his forearm. Her heart thumped a frantic rhythm, pounding, pounding, harder … harder. It was hard to breathe. “Please … I’m begging you.”
In deep POV, the tags are removed and replaced by visual cues and imagery—creating a stronger, more immediate, and all-encompassing experience for the reader.
A word of warning, not every part of a story warrants Deep POV and it can be overdone or not done correctly. Ask yourself what the story needs at that particular point. If you’re giving background information, a brief section of shallow POV may be fine. But if you want to captivate and engage your reader, deep POV should dominate your narration.
Three Tips to Increase Success with Deep POV:
- It takes practice to perfect it, but a good place to start is to identify phrases and filter words like “she felt” and “he wondered” and remove them.
- Although telling is sometimes needed for certain parts of a story, make sure your narrative resonates with sensory imagery. Let the reader see, smell, and hear the things the narrator experiences.
- Minimize tags. “He said” and “she said” can be replaced with an action.