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River Your Reader With Deep Point of View

Writing Tip — Immerse Your Readers in Deep POV

swimmingw1-2616746_1280The one piece of writing advice I have run into more than any other is “show, don’t tell”. It wasn’t until I read two books on the subject, Understanding Show Don’t Tell by Janice Hardy and Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson, that I understood that when you immerse your readers in deep POV, you guard against telling and are more likely to show.

I put this into practice for the first time last January when I wrote the rough draft of my short story, “Debt to Pay”, which will appear in the anthology From the Lake to the River. To achieve deep POV, I had to imagine my entire story through the senses of my first person narrator, sixteen-year-old Jay. It was as if my rural setting in Wayne National Forest was a world in Minecraft, and Jay was my avatar.

What amazed me was how thoroughly I experienced Jay’s environment through this technique. I saw the world through his eyes, heard it through his ears. When I finished writing the action sequence at the climax, I was breathing hard, and my heart was racing. Deep POV made my imagination come alive and I hope I have transferred the vividness into words.

The disadvantage with deep POV is that it can confuse your readers. I discovered that when I asked relatives and friends to read my rough draft. In general, they thought the story made sense, but they became confused during the action at the end. I had captured the chaos Jay experiences so well that my readers found it chaotic, too. As fellow writers Cindy Thomson and Michelle Levigne told me, sometimes a writer needs to insert tiny tells to help the reader. Your reader shouldn’t work hard to follow your story. I know when I have to deeply concentrate to figure out a plot, I may just give up.

So I returned to my rough draft and inserted tells to help the readers follow the action. But I had to make the tells seems natural for Jay to think since I was still using deep POV.

How do you get into the mind of your POV characters?

Writing Tip — Show, Don’t Tell

The two books shown above helped me tremendously in understanding “show, don’t tell”. They are easy to read, not expensive, and give detailed explanations about what “telling” prose is versus “showing” prose.

Understanding Show, Don’t Tell

Janice Hardy’s book is the longer of the two, and the one I read first. Author and agent Tess Emily Hall recommended it. Ms. Hard cover many topics that come under “telling” prose — point of view (POV), narrative distance, backstory, info dump, and more.

What I found most helpful were lists of words that usually indicate a writer is engaging in “telling”. An appendix conveniently gathers all these word together.

Her chapter “Things That Affect Telling” takes the same paragraph and rewrites it in “showing” prose from first-person POV, third-person single POV, and third-person omniscient POV. She dissects the differences in the writing styles, and that kind of examination is what I really needed.

Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View

Sharyn Kopf, an author and freelance editor who is working on my novel, recommended this book. It covers a lot of the same ground as Understanding but includes worksheets at the end of each chapter with sample answers.

I found the chapter “Write Lively, Linear Prose” to be the most helpful. Sometimes, because writers know how all the action is going to end, they write it in the wrong order.

An example from Rivet:

“The hot, stuffy air caused my head to spin.”

If I was writing in deep POV, showing, not telling, I would describe first the character noticing something wrong with his head, then have the character pinpoint the cause. I am paying close attention to the order of my action, so I don’t put the cart before the horse.

What sources have you found that teach “show, don’t tell”?

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