Mind, Body, and Soul: Stepping Into Your Character’s Shoes

 

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on the deep point of view narrative. This type of writing pulls the reader farther into the story and cuts out the author’s “voice.” I’m hoping that if I am able to input what I’ve learned into my own work the story will seem more alive and readers will feel closer to the characters.

I thought that I would share with you what I have learned about deep point of view.

Stepping into your Character's Shoes

Filters

One thing different about the deep point of view narrative is the lack of filters, such as: she thought, she saw, he felt, he wondered, etc. Instead of writing, “I felt the pain in my side,” you could write, “A searing pain emanated from my side.” Since the point of deep point of view is to anchor the reader inside the character’s head, the filters only create narrative distance which inserts the author into the story.

This is a big part of the “showing” and not “telling” part of writing. To write in a deeper point of view, you need to show the reader what is happening. If the reader is anchored into the character’s point of view, they know every word is coming from the character. Filters become unecessary.

Linear Thought

When writing in deep point of view, you must show the character’s thoughts, feelings, and how they are reacting to a specific moment. Everything must flow in a logical fashion, showing only what the character sees, knows, thinks, and experiences. Think about it this way: How would your body react to the sound of a gunshot? What would you be thinking? So, based on who your character is and their experiences, the reaction could be written a number of ways. You need to make your reader feel exactly as the character does.

Naming Emotions

This goes back to showing and not telling. I’ve read in many articles that you should never name an emotion, unless of course if it really works for a specific line. But in most cases showing the emotion is better. Also, in deep point of view, the character is not going to be thinking, “I’m terrified.” Most likely they will be feeling scared, so their heart could be racing, or their body might shake. Someone who is scared will probably run and hide or cower.

Here’s a piece I wrote a few days ago. Instead of telling how upset my character is, I tried to show how she was feeling through her body reactions.

A laugh escaped my lips. Mother’s voice echoed in my head, disparagingly upset over my ruined dress. My eyes burned, and I staggered back as hot tears flooded my vision. She’s dead. God, she’s dead. My legs gave out from under me, and the stone wall tore at my back. My skin prickled at the frigid stone. I shuddered, wrapping my arms around me knees.

If only mother could see me now.

Dialogue Tags

One step further in using deep point of view is removing or limiting dialogue tag in conversations. These are words you use when describing the speaking character (he said, he shouted, etc). Tags are just another trace of authorship and bring the reader farther out of the chareacter’s head, which can be annoying.

In order to make this work, without confusing the reader, is putting the dialogue next to the character action.  Whomever is speaking is more than likely doing something at the same time, so when you put the action next to the dialogue it makes the conversation flow. There’s no need for tags because the character’s actions work toward the same goal.

I’m partial to this because most of the time in my writing I use “he said” with only a few deviations, depending on the situation. To me, it’s boring and repetitive, so skipping them altogether is a relief. And I like how the story reads without them.

Before/After

As I am still working on this myself, the examples below might not be the best, but I hope you get the sense of how deep point of view can help your own story come alive and give it more depth.

Before:

I yawned. I couldn’t fall a sleep, even though it was tempting. I smelled the hay, inviting me to rest, just for a moment.
I could feel my eyelids droop, and I settled into the large pile of hay in the corner. The hay poked me, but I barely noticed as I drifted off.

After:

A yawn jerked me back to reality. What was I doing? I had to stay awake. Sleep was tempting, though. A pile of hay would be heaven at this point. The aroma inviting me to rest for just a moment.
My eyelids drooped, and I slipped from Ru’n’s side before settling into a large hay bed nestled in the corner of the stable. Individual strands of straw poked, but I hardly noticed anything beyond the blackness entangling the deepest recesses of my mind

Thoughts?

Using deep point of view isn’t for everyone, and only works for first person or third person limited (only in one character’s head, no head hopping). Or second person, a less used perspective found primarily in “choose your own adventure” books. Still, it can be fun to dive into the head of your character (know their thoughts, how they would react to something) and discover their voice in order to let them tell (or show) their story.

I love it when I get to a point in my writing and it feels like my character is writing the story themselves. They are the guide, and I become merely an observer.

So, tell me, what are your thoughts on writing in deep point of view? Comment below.

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2 thoughts on “Mind, Body, and Soul: Stepping Into Your Character’s Shoes

  1. Working a deep limited third is something I’ve been working on for this past year. I’ve found that it’s useful, but filters have their place in my writing. I use them to focus attention on my character’s thoughts, as a transition from action or other unrelated sequences.

    But I also write in omniscient sometimes, so perhaps that’s a natural extension.

    Overall, I certainly agree with you. Vivid writing of character emotions is far more compelling than a shallow skimming of character thoughts. Otherwise, we’d all just watch movies instead. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think that I’ve ever written in omniscient. Most of my writing focuses on first or sometimes third person. I definitely think fillers have there place. Even I can’t take them out completely, but it’s fun to try to get into the head of character. Mostly because I have a hard time with it, and my stories sound flat.
      Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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