There’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that goes into any tall tale, but where does it come from? What takes you out of your “I’m reading a book” mindset and puts you into “I’m experiencing a story” is sometimes called “Deep POV.”
Deep POV stands for “Deep Point Of View.” If you’ve ever been sucked out of yourself and into a story, chances are, it was from a deep POV perspective. That character–whomever he or she was–experienced the events of plot so intensely that the reader just can’t help but be drawn in. It takes concentration for a writer to delve that deeply into a POV and sustain it, and there are reasons why.
Our Own Egos
As writers, we are Interesting People. We make stuff up about Even More Interesting People, but there’s a certain amount of ego necessary to stimulate the brave craziness that says, “I’m going to put these words on a page, bare my heart and soul about a truth in humanity, and I’mma let other people read it, too.” People are terrified of public speaking, public vulnerability, and public criticism, and writing is a form of all three of those.
It’s hard, then, once you’ve crossed the Rubicon of exposing yourself and figured out you’re a bit of an exhibitionist (go ahead, laugh), to then back down and shut up while your characters take over. Any time I edit, I always find instances where I’ve slipped out of a character’s head and editorialized (or committed the even-worse sin of “head-hopping” by unconsciously describing my POV character’s physical attributes without there being a mirror around. As amazing as my characters are, I don’t care who you are, you can’t see your own forehead). There are even more egregious sins in my drafts when it comes to describing emotions, but that’s wandering afield.
Hard Work And Sweat
Another reason we may fail to sustain deep POV is because this is hard work. In terms of craft, unless you have a natural talent for deep POV, you have to work at it (and even if you do have a natural talent, you’re better off all around actually learning the craft mechanics of how it works, because it’s smart to know how to learn). At the component level, deep POV is as much a function of specific word choice, and really knowing your characters, as any of the other craft techniques that go into making a story.
I will be honest, there are some–no, many–writers who do have keen natural instincts for doing one craft technique or another. Or even several at one time. Some are very successful at riding their natural talents. But as with any of the craft mechanics of writing and storycrafting, at some point, you’re going to have to work at it. If only to exceed your natural inertial velocity.
With any craft technique, you have to understand it, pick it apart, and try to put it back together in your own way to really start to get an understanding. Deep POV is one of those techniques where you often do have to go to those uncomfortable places. No one likes to wear the hat of an abuse victim. Deep POV of said victim requires you to not only wear that hat, but walk inside the skin, live in the brain, and see through the eyes of someone who’s had something terrible happen to them. And when you the writer are doing that, it becomes more apparent just how much truth is in the phrase, “There, but for the grace of God, go I” (God/Gods/Fate/Luck/Karma/Flying Spaghetti Monster). It forces us to humanize, if not make sympathetic, people with whom we normally might not wish to empathize.
Of course, it’s not all bad. I write romantic comedies, so most of my characters don’t have deep tragedies in their lives. But they do have feelings, and wants and needs and desires and secret humiliations and oh, yes, nobody wants to borrow any more secret humiliations than they already have, do they?
Worth The Effort
In spite of the effort, the expression of Deep POV is worth it. When you as a reader are sucked into someone else’s truth, your views widen, as does your perception of what can be true. Deep POV makes people think, and that ain’t such a bad thing.
“Think–It ain’t illegal yet” –George Clinton