Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How Important is Deep POV? Really?

Last week, Angela Quarles posted about deep POV and the problems that can occur when using the words “before” and “until.” In many cases, these words tell instead of show, which often distance the reader from the character. She presented three passages from her latest WIP where she’d used those words and then explained how she’d fixed them up to keep the reader in deep POV. All good stuff.

Except for the fact that in all three cases, I preferred the original version.

Now I admit I’m not an expert on deep POV. Heck, I still struggle with showing and telling. I don’t read many romance novels (where deep POV is most widely used) and the fantasy stories I read rarely utilize deep POV. To be honest, my reader’s palate may simply too immature at this stage of my writing career to fully grasp the concept.

Let me give you an example from her post.

Before: He angled up toward Dauphin Street, and she waited until he disappeared around the corner before she set off after him. She peeked around the corner. His tall form weaved through a light crowd.

After: He angled up toward Dauphin Street, and disappeared around the corner. She scurried to the corner and peeked around. His tall form weaved through a light crowd.

I understand the first version is a little telling, but personally I don’t have much of a problem with that. In fact, I preferred the telling version because it gave me a better understanding of her interior thoughts and motives during the sequence of events, as opposed to the second version, which seemed more like a formal recitation of the events.

Now I’m sure Angela’s fans enjoy her writing style and will love the changes. But I suspect my stories will always tend more toward the first version. It's what I'm most comfortable with.

So is there any hope for me as a fantasy writer?


24 comments:

  1. There is plenty of hope for you! You're right about the interior thoughts and motive. The first one is more deliberate, it lets us know she intentionally waited. I think the second one could've been helped with a bit of narrative spice by adding voice.

    He angled up toward Dauphin Street, and disappeared around the corner. Good. Out of sight for now. She scurried to the corner and peeked around. Where was he going now? His tall form weaved through a light crowd. Aha! The market!

    That's just my opinion on how to keep it deep, but add more intention.

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    1. One of the things I'm beginning to understand about writing is that there are no absolute rules. A writer's style is more about which rules they decide to follow and which they do not. Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Yeah, the second one seemed plain. I think genre can influence the depth of point of view. I know I don't write deep in my books.

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    1. I think that SFF work best if you're not too close to the character. It's the wonder of those worlds that do the best job of pulling me in.

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  3. Fantasy is a more liberal beast, prose wise. I prefer the second example. (But Loni's is best--with the sentence variation and inner dialog the examples were missing.) Sequence words always pull me out and remind me that the author stands between me and the story. I'd rather be solidly in the character's heads, feeling what they feel, seeing what they see.

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

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    1. It's not that I'm against deep POV. I have a few books on the subject that I'm currently reading. But for me, trying to write in deep POV is like trying to dig through rock with my bare hands. It hurts...

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  4. I think there's always going to be some telling. Well, there has to be some or one scene could last an entire novel. The trick is when to zoom in and when to zoom out. Zoom in on what you want to emphasize, on what's important. It's totally at your discretion... the writer's. :)

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    1. Part of the process of learning how to write is deciding how much one should follow the rules. Still learning.

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  5. Huh. I think both examples are totally fine - to me it reads not so much as telling vs showing, but a voice and style choice. The first is more straightforward and matter of fact, almost like a detective story. The second is much more stylized, with some humor and lightness added in - like a lighter romance, maybe. Loni changed the style, too, when she suggested a different version. So Angela is writing one way, and you're writing another, and both are perfectly valid.

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    1. I understand that there are different writing styles, but as a writing newbie it's tough to know the difference between my writing style and blandly ignoring the rules.

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  6. I am not impressed by the revised version. Like you, I preferred the sequence of events made clear. Do not be sucked in by writers giving you advice on "show not tell." There are times when telling is needed. No rule should be overused.

    And an over-use of "showing" often turns into a satiric noir-style narrative that makes me gag. I don't want to go into detail in public, but I once refused to help promote a book on this topic, based on the horrific examples meant to prove the point. Perfectly respectable paragraphs were turned into dripping, over-written claptrap.

    Different readers prefer different styles. Looks like my preference aligns with yours!

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    1. Glad to know there might be some readers out there who might like my style of writing. We'll see what happens when I publish.

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  7. I also liked the first version, and it's no more telling than the second example. I wonder who told her this is how to go deep POV. If she had changed the second sentence to "Counting the seconds, she scurried to the corner and peeked around," it would at least fix the boring sentence structure. Eliminating time qualifiers does not make a deeper POV. Eliminating POV filters like "I think" works better. After all, when was the last time you thought, "I think" to yourself?

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    1. I'm trying to remove as many filter words as I can, as long as I can still think of a way to write the sentence and have it flow naturally. The best writers are the ones who can do that with relative ease.

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  8. I was thinking along the line of Loni and Sher. I like their slight tweak of the second version to show a hesitation on the woman's part. Great post. It's going to have me pausing when and if I use these type of qualifiers.

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    1. Sometimes, writing seems to be nothing more than having to make a whole bunch of decisions. I hate making decisions.

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  9. Love this discussion! As I always try to sress on any of my writing craft posts, these are not rules, and if my post happens to be about show vs. tell I always try to make a point that telling is needed sometimes. For this one, my disclaimer was "These are not rules to live and die by. Using 'before' and 'until' is not wrong, and sometimes it's exactly what's needed. Like any craft tip, absorb it and then see if it applies, or not, to your prose and that particular point in your story." I agree with the others too, that it depends on genre, as I don't see Deep POV as often in sf/f. An anecdote I like to tell a lot in any discussion on show v tell, is the time I read a mystery novel where the POV walked his cat and absolutely nothing happened plot-wise during the walk, but the reader was subjected to everything that transpired during that walk. And since it was a mystery, I kept thinking there was a clue here--some reason the author was focusing the reader on this moment--but nope. made me wonder if the author had taken the show v. tell too much to heart.

    I love Loni's rewrite! This isn't my final version (it's with the copyeditor) so things might change depending on the CE's feedback, but at the moment, I didn't want to go that deep as it's kind of a semi-transition moment. We'll see. But I love talking craft.

    And someone wondered where I'd heard it. I can't remember the first place, but more recently from Janice Hardy and Margie Lawson.

    Thanks!
    Angela

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    1. To be honest, I think a fair number of the writers I follow on blogs write romance, so I'm always distressed by how much better their writing is compared with mine. I'm still learning. thanks for the comment.

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  10. Yes, I think you have hope! I actually like the first version because I really understood that she waited for a reason. And, I agree with Sher's comments on this one.

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    1. Writing is a never-ending struggle of learning. Wish it were easier. :)

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  11. I know you know there's hope, so I'll skip past that. ;) As for the samples, I pick option number three. It is my humble opinion that most passages of this kind need much more than a cosmetic fix accomplished by changing a word here or there. The deeper fix I advise authors to reach for is one in which that particular scene could only have been detailed through the eyes of this character, because they put their unique stamp on the description. Of course, that's much easier to accomplish if the character is, themselves, unique, but thankfully the middle grade world tends to demand such characters!

    --Suzanne
    www.suzannewarr.com

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  12. Yeah, Deep POV and I have some issues. I like to have a little bit more thought.

    That being said, I hate when manuscripts are littered with the "stoppings" and "startings." "I started to run but stopped when I realized there was no use--even if I took up marathons, those cookies were going to ride in my 'junk trunk' for the rest of my life," could probably lose everything before the hyphen without trouble. Still, it can be a fine line between voice and an editor with the deep POV stick.

    If it's any consolation, and I know it isn't, I prefer my stories to feel a little bit like the MC is sitting down and reminiscing about the old days (yes, I loved the vehicle for Princess Bride to introduce us to the narrator and the commentator--brilliantly done). Still, it's all opinion and depends on what relationship you want your reader to have with your book.

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  13. I'm a fan of deep POV in general, but I think it has levels. In my own writing, I try to replace passive sensory words like "saw" and "felt" with the character's experience of what he/she is seeing or feeling. But I'm with you on the choppy feel of the rewritten example you gave above.

    I also agree that genre, and even sub-genre, plays into it. The rewritten example would work great for contemporary urban fantasy, but not so great for epic fantasy.

    I say write what feels natural to you. Learning about deep POV is great, but take away the approaches that appeal most to you and leave the rest behind. In time, you may even decide to go back to some of the discarded techniques as your style evolves or if you decide to explore other genres.

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