by Maggie Toussaint
Show of hands here: how many are guilty of serious headhopping in your earlier works or first drafts? (My hand goes up.) It's a problem I struggled with initially. Then I glommed onto POV nuances. I learned how to show the non-POV character's thoughts through their dialogue, behavior, or body language, as observed through the eyes of the POV character.
Along the way to writing prowess, authors learn when to use third person POV, first, and omniscient. Each POV sytle lends itself to various fiction genres. Some use omnisicent to show a larger view at the opening of a chapter/scene and then transition into the main POV style. Many romances traditionally use multiple third person POV, so that the reader can feel at ease in the heads of both the hero and heroine. By contrast, it is quite common for mysteries to be in first person POV, with the sleuth as the only POV character, though there are many exceptions within both romance and mystery genres.
In both third person and first person POV, there exists an opportunity for deep POV. In a third person POV scene, that transition may be signalled by the words he (she) thought or italics. In first person, no such transition is needed because the reader is already inside the head of the POV character. However, in my opinion, deep POV should be used with a light hand.
Case in point: A book I recently read written in first person POV had a heavy dose of deep POV. Consequently, I brooded along with the main character for pages upon pages. I experienced considerable anxiety about the story's direction and the author's mental health. This particular book was well written, and the deep POV wasn't presented as monologue, so there were no technical flaws, as in impedence of the story. Even so, it was dizzying and uncomfortable for me.
Writers want readers to feel connected to their books. But narrowing the lens of the story to deep POV, restricts the flow of information. To me it's like going on a long hike and only being able to stare down at your feet. As a reader, I want to sense more of the panorama of the setting. Being trapped inside someone's mind too long feels too limited, like a horse wearing blinders.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy deep POV, and I think it makes a story. For me, its most enjoyable when its done sparingly, like a sprig of mint in a mint julep.
What are your thoughts on deep POV? Do you notice it? Does it bother you?