Wednesday, 19 December 2012

That tricky Deep Third

Winter fields
I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in this - when a critiquer points out that my POV has slipped, my immediate reaction is, No it hasn’t! But then it gradually sinks in that the critiquer is correct, and I guiltily alter the wording to suit. Sometimes, occasionally, very occasionally, I look and think, No, it is better as it is.

It is easy to get confused about POV. All this talk of Deep Thirds and Omniscient can make one’s eyes glaze over and sleep is only an eye blink away, but today’s reader tastes must be considered. There was a time when authors could write as much Telling/Narrating as they pleased. Read any book written and published prior to the last decade and you’ll find the stuff I mean all too easily. Jane Austen and her colleagues are excused of course, because they are among the legendary Classic Writers. But try authors of the fifties and sixties – they headhop like mad and include info dumps without apology – things we wouldn’t get away with today.
The powers that be – whoever they are in the writing world - claim that having a narrator creates a distance between the character and the reader and that readers are put off by this. At its worse, the author gets onto the page and tells the reader what the character thinks or does. This is the dreaded Author Intrusion. Of course some very famous books have used that style because it best suits their story. 'Dear Reader, I married him' springs to mind.

The aim is to have a reader “walk in the character’s shoes”- and I know which publishing house coined that phrase! So to achieve this close connection between character and reader, we have Deep Third POV, where thoughts and actions are not given by a third party who seems to hovering above the character and telling the reader what’s going on. Oh, no. Thoughts and actions are delivered by the character, as in the examples below from my latest work Victorian Beauty due to be published very soon:-

“With a frustrated sigh, Melanie gripped her bag firmly, brushed through the low hanging branches and strode out across the lawn. If she were shot for it, she would not follow that drive an instant longer.”

“His eyes narrowed, and Melanie’s stomach clenched in response. Her tone had been a little too pert. Lord, it was so difficult to strike the right balance.”

I'm told the need to use italic font disappears when using Deep POV. Direct thoughts in the first person are usually rendered in italic font, and are really not necessary if you've really grasped Deep Third. Sometimes I’m tempted to switch from the third person into the first person, as in:-
“Melanie gripped her bag firmly, brushed through the low hanging branches and strode out across the lawn. If I am shot for it, I will not follow that drive an instant longer.” If I need to use italics,  I've learned it is a clue that something is Not Quite Right.

I look at the examples I’ve given and wonder if they are strictly Deep POV. perhaps there's an English version of Deep POV and an American version. I think I know the theory, but in practice I wobble a bit, and as I said at the beginning, POV can be utterly confusing. I think my reading history over the last xxx years inclines me to something that is almost Deep Third, but not quite.

However, one good thing that happens when writing Deep POV is that Telling virtually disappears except where you really need it. When you’re explaining something that gets your character from A to B, perhaps, or something mundane that must be mentioned but doesn’t require detail. It's Good and Useful then.

Ah well, off to practice some Deep Third POV.


Jean Bull said...

Thanks for explaining about the Deep Third. If it gets rid of telling, it sounds good to me!
Jen, I've nominated you for The Very Inspiring Blog Award, and if you accept, you can find details over on my blog. Happy Christmas!

Jen Black said...

Thanks Jean, I'll have a look!