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How to Write Deep Third Person Point of View.

by Ríona Navan


What is deep third person point of view?

Deep third person point of view, or POV, is when the narrative style reflects only the thoughts, experiences, and perceptions of the point of view character in the scene. It’s a way of mirroring the closeness of first person but in third person and brings the reader right into the character’s head. This style of prose is just one of many but if you are interested in learning how to bring the reader deeper into the character’s POV, read on.


Elements of POV

Deep third POV can encompass many elements but I want to focus on the three elements at the core of my POV approach – character, world, and language. These elements are not separate from each other, but interplay in a number of ways, and it is this beautiful complexity that allows you to use POV to elevate your story from a simple recounting of events to an intricate and compelling narrative.


Character is the person (or being) whose personality and experiences frame the narrative.


World is the specific details of the setting which support or conflict the character’s goals, inform the character’s backstory, and shape their worldview.


Language is how you convey character and world to the reader. It’s the choices you as the writer make so the reader knows, ah, we’re seeing things through the eyes of the charming thief and definitely not the uptight junior lawyer.


Most of my writing process is asking questions. The tricky bit is working out the right questions to ask. For me, these questions come in the edit/rewriting process but if you’re more of a planner than a pantser, add these questions to your outlining arsenal. The most important question I ask when deeping third person POV is:


How can I choose language that conveys this specific character’s experiences within this specific world?

Character

  • What is their personality?

  • Their job?

  • Their place in the world?

  • Who do they most care about?

  • What sights/sounds/smells/tastes etc trigger memories for them?

  • Do their thoughts mirror their words or contradict them?

This last question is one of my favourite things to play with as the degree to which a character’s speech reflects or contradicts their thoughts reveals a lot about who they are as a person and their interrelationship with the world. By contrasting the thoughts and the dialogue, you can delve much deeper into the character and highlight elements of their personality to the reader without having to tell them outright.


World

  • What is the character’s relationship to the world?

  • To those with power and those without?

  • Is the character aware of things beyond the district or city they live in or are their thoughts and experiences confined to a smaller area?

  • How do their values shape what they perceive in the world?

  • What do they focus on when entering a new space?.

When you’re describing a setting, make sure what you describe is specific to the character. It’s a general rule of thumb that whatever is described in most detail is interpreted by the reader as something important, so be careful not to over describe elements of the scene that don’t either matter immediately (i.e., to develop the character or move forward the scene) or act as foreshadowing.


Language

  • What words are overused?

  • Are the things the character references something they would have knowledge of?

  • How can the dialogue/word choice be crafted to better reflect the character?

  • Are there too many filter words?

  • Can I use specific metaphors/imagery?

Metaphor and imagery are some of my favourite tools to deepen POV as they act as a great shorthand for bringing the reader closer into the head of the POV character. Start by brainstorming a list of things the character is interested in or relate to their everyday lives, then use those topics as the inspiration for the metaphors and imagery you choose to use.


A quick recap...

  • Ask questions about your character.

  • Use the gap between thought and dialogue to deepen characterisation.

  • Demonstrate the character’s place in the world through what they focus on.

  • Remove filter words.

  • Use character specific metaphor and imagery.

As with all writing advice, this isn’t universal, but what works for me as a plantser. I hope these tips are useful and remember, improving your writing craft is a process. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if you put in the work and stay true to your reason for writing.



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