Monday, April 25, 2011

What's "Deep POV"?

Today I'm pleased to have my good friend and critique partner, Maryn Sinclair, as my guest. Maryn writes erotic romance, stories you won't want to miss if you like sizzling romance and good plots. Sexual Persuasion is her first novel.
In Loose Id’s acceptance email for my second erotic romance, The Escort, the editor-in-chief wrote: “We’d like to work to create a deeper POV and stronger characterization for Annie. This may come in the form of having to answer many “why” questions in edits.”
Of course, I know about POV, but what is this deep POV she’s talking about? I obviously didn’t have a problem with it in my first book for Loose Id, Sexual Persuasion, the one released this week. (I’ll explain why later.) So what was I doing wrong in the second book? First, I had to find out exactly what deep POV meant.
Here are some of the definitions I found when I Googled the term:
“A technique that infuses third person POV with the intimacy of first person.” Credit: Maeve Maddox
“What makes a point of view deep is how close we are to the viewpoint of the character’s thoughts.” Credit: Jordan McCollum
Okay, I get it. Delve into my character’s head.
In Sexual Persuasion, I do this by using backstory. Not telling it, but actually “living” it through flashbacks. In other words, a story within a story. Alex, my hero, is—tortured may be too strong a word—hindered by a past relationship that prevents him from getting involved in another one. His almost two-decades-old love affair with a man ended badly. It was his only homosexual liaison. We know what happens in that relationship because we relive it with him. We know how Alex felt then and how he feels now when he meets Charlotte and has the same visceral reaction to her that he had when he met his male lover. We know it. We feel it. We live it with him all over again. We’re in his head. I know, that’s repetition. I can’t emphasize it too strongly.
We’re in Charlotte’s head, too, as she fights her attraction to Alex because he’s characteristic of her bad romance choices. Alex is the attorney for Boston’s head racketeer, and he’s rumored to be gay. If that doesn’t have “bad choice” written all over it, what does?
Intrigued? I hope so.
I’ve always written in third person because I find first person too confining, and I’ve always written multiple POVs because I want to know what goes on with my other characters. Erotic Romance centers on the two main characters—or three or four, depending—because it’s about relationships. I am toying with one story that will incorporate more than two POVs, and one isn’t part of the relationship. Will that be a deal breaker? I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll find out.
Back to my dilemma. As I reread The Escort, I saw what I was doing wrong. The first meeting of my two characters is from Annie’s POV. There is nothing to explain what she feels when she meets my hero, Daniel, a blind Iraq War veteran who hires her to accompany him for three days on a goodwill mission to help two young soldiers injured in the same attack that took his sight. As a lieutenant-colonel, Daniel found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. His career is over, something he’d focused on his whole life. Did Annie feel anything more than what revolved around her? No.
Even the hardest heart would feel sympathy for Daniel’s situation, though he feels none for himself. All Annie thinks of is the ten-thousand-dollar fee she desperately needs to pay the hospital bills that have mounted from her daughter’s near-fatal illness, which is why she took the escort job in the first place. Annie comes off as a cold-hearted bitch, and readers might not overcome that first impression. So I’m seeing a pattern now. I see what I’m doing wrong.
How do I fix it? You can’t “tell” emotions. You must feel them. Does Annie’s heart break just a little as she sees this handsome—of course, the males are always handsome in ER; rich, not always, but this one is; sexy, a given—guy who exudes strength and humor? Whew, that was a long, convoluted sentence. Yes, in the rewrite. Yes! We feel what she feels. We experience the gnawing in the pit of her stomach as she imagines the incomprehensible darkness of his life.
Strangely enough, Daniel, for all his problems, is the least messed-up (I’m sanitizing my language here) hero I’ve ever written. You’d think he would be bitter, but he’s not. He accepts life the way it is because things happen in war, and he won’t whine because the dice took a bad roll. In his mind, to take any other avenue would be no way to live. I sympathized with Annie, and I fell in love with Daniel. That’s a must in writing any hero for me, but he was special. He also gave me a chance to write in four of the five senses: feel/touch, hear, smell, and taste. Sight was out of his realm, but he made the others work for him, and I hope I made them work for the reader. That was really getting into deep POV, and it was a sensory experience.
I fell in love with Alex too. I knew him better because I was with him longer. Sexual Persuasion was originally rejected by Loose Id, but the editor must have seen something she liked because she asked if I’d be willing to work with a developmental editor. I jumped at the chance. Maybe that’s why I got the deep POV in that book and had to be prompted in the second.
Now, is deep POV a technique a writer should implement only in erotic romance or romance in general? I hope not. It’s a method that draws the reader closer to the characters, makes them fall in love with them, empathize with them, cry with them, or fear for them. It spurs readers to keep turning the pages because they care what happens. This goes for every genre, because beside the plot readers must be drawn to the characters we’re writing. If a reader doesn’t like them, doesn’t feel their angst, joy, sadness, or the love in their hearts, you’ll hear the sound of that book closing. Or in my case, the mouse clicking to another site.
I’m still in edits for The Escort, and writing this post reminds me I can do more with deep POV. Delve deeper. Chip away at the outside layers to expose the core. That’s what it’s all about.
Maryn's website is and you can find her on Facebook. See her author page and buy her book at Loose-Id. It will be available on Tuesday, April 26. There's an excerpt you can click on from the page about the book. Check it out!


E. B. Davis said...

I'll put The Escort on my reading list. The characters sound interesting, and I've got to learn more about deep POV. Finish those revisions, Maryn, and get that book out!

Maryn said...

I'm finished now, waiting for the second edits. Thanks for your support, E.B.

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Linda Lovely said...

Congrats on both books, Maryn. And this is an excellent, educational post on deep POV--a challenge for most writers--and one you've obviously met. Am on my way to Loose-Id to buy your first book! Linda

Maryn said...

Thanks, Linda. One thing about writing: it's always a challenge. I hope you enjoy the book.

Donnell said...

Maryn: First, you do look lovely in your hat :) And what Linda said. I think you need to do a workshop on Deep POV. It's Tuesday, and you know what that means??!! I'm off to buy Sexual Persuasions. I can't wait to get into your storytelling!

Thanks, Ellis!

Maryn said...

Thanks, Donnell. I'm afraid thoughts of doing a workshop in front of strangers paralyzes me. But I appreciate your confidence. Maybe someday when I've mastered deep POV myself I'll take a deep breath and do it.

Sandy Cody said...

I love stories with multiple POV. I don't think there's a better way to show all the different facets of a single event. You look great in that hat - like you're having a good time.

Maryn said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sandy. The hat was fun. I should have bought it, but I'd have to make room in an already overcrowded house, and it was big. I try to have fun as much as possible. Life is too short not to.

Barbara Monajem said...

Congratulations, Maryn!

One thing that tells me whether I've written a deep enough POV is if I feel the characters' emotions physically -- faster heart rate, exhilaration, exhaustion... etc.

I hope you'll do a workshop some day!

Maryn said...

Thanks, Barbara. I always "feel" my characters inside me, especially Daniel in the second book. But translating that to the written word and making the reader feel the same emotions is not always as easy. We do the best we can and hope it works.

Barbara Monajem said...

Heh. So true. Feeling it is one thing, and making the reader feel it, too, another entirely.

VR Barkowski said...

Wonderful post, Maryn, and congratulations on release of Sexual Persuasion! I love deep POV and tried to use it in my current WIP, but it seemed to drift in and out as if I were making a film with a faulty camera lens. Perhaps I'm not disciplined enough, perhaps it was the wrong POV for the story, or perhaps I'd better read Sexual Persuasion so I can see how it's done. I pick option three.

Love the hat, but you're right, it warrants a closet of it's own. :)

Ellis Vidler said...

That's an excellent lesson on deep POV, Maryn. I especially like the example--it makes your point clear and easy to understand. I'll save it in case I do anymore teaching. Altogether a very good post! And to think, you were afraid you'd have nothing interesting to say.

Maryn said...

Thanks, Viva. I don't think deep POV is ever wrong for a character. It doesn't have to be the emotional deep of a romance novel. It can be a clinical deep, questioning a decision or a reason. Whichever, you're telling your reader more about the character, and that can never be a bad thing. I've closed books because I couldn't connect with a main character. I even like to know why my bad guys are bad if I write their POV. Otherwise, they become cardboard figures.

Maryn said...

Ellis, I'm still afraid of having nothing to say. I think I've shot my wad at the blog posts I'm doing this week. Thank you for having me and letting me yak on for a day.

Sasscer Hill said...

Maryn, I've never heard the expression, "deep point of view," but after your definition, I'm thinking it's like the way Michael Connelly makes his 3rd person point of view so close, that I have to go back and look at the book because I can never be sure if it was written in 1st or 3rd!

Congratulations on your book coming out! It is so overdue as you are a great writer, and your stuff I've read has always been so much better than half of what's out there!

Sasscer Hill

Maryn said...

Thanks, Sasscer. Your comment is much appreciated, but, um, only half?

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Maryn and Ellis,

I agree with Maryn's assessment of deep POV. If a reader doesn't connect with what the character is feeling, regardless of the genre, they lose interest in the outcome of the situation.

Sexual Persuasion sounds like a great read. It's on my to buy list!

Maggie Toussaint

Maryn said...

Full disclosure. Maggie is a critique partner, and she knows about deep POV. She's taught a lot of it to me. Thanks, Maggie.

Donnell said...

You are in such good hands, both of you. ;)I'm a huge fan of Maggie's, too.