Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Demystifying Deeper POV Part One: Don't Panic!


 I thought today an apt day to start a series with a topic terrifying to a lot of writers…
Do you panic and cringe with anxiety-filled shudders when a critique partner or editor makes a note on your manuscript that there is too much Telling versus Showing…or worse, [insert dark, eerie, crescendo music] lack of Deeper POV?

Don’t worry, because you are not alone—not by a long shot. Many writers struggle with these terms. I remember when I first started, the concept of Telling versus Showing was like a foreign language I just couldn’t grasp, and no one could really decipher it for me, either.

But these concepts don’t have to be scary or big mysteries any longer…and, in fact, I LOVE Deeper POV (Deeper Point of View) because this is essential for endearing readers to your character(s), pulling them into his or her plight, and investing them in your story so much their dinner ends up being late to the table, the laundry gets forgotten, or they stay up into the wee hours of the morning to finish your book.

As you can probably tell from my blog, I am a very visual person, so let’s start by breaking down these obscure terms in a more relatable way…

Over the years, I have come to associate Telling to an impartial, omniscient third party that knows all and sees all…like a Fly on the wall simply watching the scene progress. Sitting there gives the Fly a perfect position to see everything, from the main character crying to the protagonist sneaking up behind him/her. To watch and listen to a covert conversation in a diner or in the bedroom of your heroine as she gushes about the handsome cowboy she just met or as they make love for the first time.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

Nope, sorry, there is a HUGE problem with that—the Fly is not a character in your story, not even a part of the manuscript. So don’t let this pesky insect Tell the story, either. [Disclaimer: If you are one of the 0.1% of the writing population actually creating a story about a Fly and/or its hundreds of family members then feel free to go with another omniscient subject of your choice. For the purpose of this series, however, the Fly is heading for the sticky paper😁.]

Let me repeat the important fact here, the Fly is not a character in your story—and, unless you are a Fly, it most definitely is not writing the story, either.

Write this down, type it big, make a sticky note on your computer, post it on social media—whatever will help you remember:

The Fly is NOT a character in my story, and the Fly is definitely NOT writing my story.

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the similar term used of Show Don’t Tell. Logically then, if Telling is the Fly you don’t want, then Showing is what you do want, right? So simply ask yourself, if the manuscript isn’t the Fly’s story, then whose story is it?

Your main character’s, of course. And this is why it is soooo important for your main character to Show his or her story.

Let's break it down even a little further...

A Fly just sits on the wall, watching. It simply Tells what it sees—two people talking, someone getting beat up, an argument, or a car crash. Basic action and dialogue—He did this/She said that. Yet, your main character is the one experiencing these moment. He/she has the amazing and unique ability not only to see what is going on, but to feel, think, sense, perceive, theorize, interpret, and most of all REACT internally and externally to these moments/events.

This is the essence of Deeper POV (Deeper Point of View): Showing the specific experience of your character, through your character’s interpretation and reaction.

One more time…
Deeper POV is Showing 
the experience through your character.

This experience, this reaction/interpretation specifically from the main character then is Showing, which, essentially, is the same as Deeper POV.

And, since your character is the one experiencing the moment, he/she has far more details to offer the reader than a Telling Fly—sensory details, internal and external details, attitude, fears, emotions and perspective. Better yet, as each person reacts differently to an event depending on his or her life experiences, Deeper POV is unique and specific to each individual character.

For example, a woman with an abusive past will react differently to a relationship than one raised by two loving parents, or to a woman bullied for her unbecoming appearance in high school, or another raised by a single parent or an elderly grandparent, or any number of different scenarios as each person views their own upbringing differently. Or, setting down a fully cooked, whole lobster in front of one person may get a wide-eyed, drooling grin while another will wrinkle their nose at the offensive fishy odor, cringe, and back away (me!). And this is Deeper POV in a nutshell—describing the moment from your character’s specific perception/experience/sensory details/reactions…and not from an impartial Fly narrator sitting on the wall above everything. Because, remember, as the Fly is not writing the manuscript or a character in your story, then it should not have a point of view.

So, to sum up today:

Telling = what a Fly sees

Showing = what your character experiences 
(being his or her Deeper POV)

But, we are not done yet!

Over the next three Writing Wednesdays, I will continue to Demystify Deeper POV by showing you how to spot that Telling Fly and give you specific tips, tricks, and examples to stop the pest from sabotaging your manuscript. Building strong, character-driven stories will not only engage your readers in the full experience but draw them in and keep them eagerly turning the pages to the very end (not to mention wanting to grab up more of your titles).

Between now and next week, take a few minutes and go over a page of your manuscript--I know it will be hard, but try to step back and read it as a reader would (not knowing anything but what is on that page), then ask yourself, “Whose story is this?” Is it an easy question to answer by just the paragraphs you read? Do you know who the main POV character is right away? Are you experiencing the moment with the character (feeling the chills, the fear, the annoyance, the heartache, the nervousness, the quickening of new love, the stinging scrape across skin or scorched hiss of a burn), or are you just being Told the basic actions and dialogue by a Fly sitting on the wall narrating what it sees?

Now, don’t panic if you’re worried it might be the darned Fly…because we are just getting started! Get your fly swatters ready, because we are going to SWAT THAT FLY right out of your manuscript!

Join me for Demystifying Deeper POV Part Two: Me, Myself, and Fly.

Also, feel free to leave a comment and spread the word to join us here for some good old fashion swatting practice!

All content ©bystacydawn

☮ Visit me on social media and at my website~links on the side 💟


  1. Even as I'm reading this, I'm thinking of a scene in my manuscript that I have to go review and make sure I'm getting my heroine's experience on the page, not just telling what's happening. After 35 books, the reminder is always valuable! Thanks, Stacy. And Happy Halloween!

  2. Oh my gosh, I've heard the fly on the wall thing from you a few times. Great post. My goal is to send you a book and not hear that even once. LOL

  3. Excellent explanation! This will go on my list of references for authors! Thank you and see you (and that soon-to-be-endangered fly) next week!

  4. I think this topic never wears thin for authors. I’m interested in reading your next three weeks of Showing not Telling.

  5. I have to admit after 7 years of writing professionally I still sometimes have that same fly problem. I might just have to print this entire lesson just so I can go back and read over it from time to time.
    I can't wait to read the next part.
    Thanks and have a spooky Halloween.

  6. I like the fly on the wall reference. And I'm looking forward to your next installments.

  7. I giggled. Well done, Stacy! I'm off to share. <3

  8. Wonderful intro to deeper POV! I'm looking forward to part two... :)

  9. I’ve had a lot of flies show up in my books!

    1. LOL, yes, they are pesky little critters. It's all about getting them out of the ones you are working on, right? Thanks for being here!

  10. Great post, Stacy! As a reader, I want to experience the emotions of these characters. As a writer, I'd better deliver them. Looking forward to the next installment.

  11. Great article, Stacy. You've explained the difference between showing and telling very well. Thanks.

  12. I'm sharing this with my RWA chapter. Learning how to do deeper POV is a lesson well-learned! I need to learn it. :)

    1. Thanks so much, Lucy! And don't shortchange yourself. You are really doing great with this and have come so far. Proud of you!

  13. Don’t belittle the idea of the narrator as the entity telling the story yet is not actually a character in the book. The narrator as the teller of the story goes back to the time before there were books. The storyteller has been “telling stories” for millennia. It is how history, culture and legends were passed from one generation to another.
    Many great masterpieces are written in this style. And that’s what it is – a style. Denouncing one style as frivolous is not appropriate. A new author may wish to write in that style and may actually pen the next Beowulf, but may be fearful to attempt the book because they believe their chosen style is wrong.
    I have no issue with discussing how deep POV works – but not all styles are perfect for all books or all authors.
    I would suggest instead of - The Fly is NOT a character in my story, and the Fly is definitely NOT writing my story.

    The Fly is NOT a character in my story, but if the Fly wants to write it so be it, and if not it can just f -off (fly off – where did your head go???).

    1. LOL, Daryl, on fly off! Love that. You have an excellent point--the storyteller has always been an important part of history and great masterpieces. In many works, the narrator is an integral part of the story and a character in themselves. I have read many enjoyable books and short stories with such.

      Style is based on voice, and voice is wonderful and unique to each author, as it gives individualized interpretation to every event. Which is exactly my point--everyone, whether character, narrator, author, or fly LOL, has a unique perspective and each can be varied and different, as yours above. And these points of view need to be Shown. I don't see my perspective denouncing a style or belittling, but I totally respect if you do and am honestly glad you voiced your interpretation of it. The essence of Deeper POV is Showing just that.

      I don't expect my interpretation to relate to every manuscript, no one's does; this series is simply for those who are interested in exploring a different take on these topics and expanding their craft, even if that is finding out what doesn't work for them.

      I truly appreciate you being here and commenting.

  14. coming in late here, but I did read this post through a few times on Wednesday and it's something I think I will return to. I love the fly on the wall analogy - but I also love deep p.o.v. both as a writer and reader, for me, it makes the book come to life through the character. I endeavour to show as much as possible though my characters' thoughts and emotions but I'm not sure if I always succeed and I know there is always much more to learn.

  15. Thank you Stacy. This post was very helpful regarding POV and very clear. I'm working with Dianne Rich and she referred me to your blog. I'm looking forward to more!