Going Deeper

by Carol J. Post

Before I was published, I used to enter a lot of contests. One of the first contests I entered, a judge said I needed to learn to write in deep point of view. I had never heard of it and had to look it up. I have to say, that is some of the best writing advice I have ever gotten.

Writing in deep point of view is not for the lazy. Not only is the concept difficult to master, scenes written in deep point of view also take longer to write, often requiring more words. But the result is well worth the extra effort. Deep point of view lets the reader experience the story through the eyes of the POV character. It adds sparkle to that character’s voice and gives the writing emotional punch.

The first step in deepening point of view is to fully know your characters. What do they want more than anything? What do they feel strongly about? What are their goals, motivations and conflicts? What about quirks, things that make them unique and memorable? Don’t just write about the character; become the character. (Click to Tweet)

Here are some tips for deepening point of view:

  1. Eliminate “telling” words and phrases. These are words like thought, felt, saw, heard, wondered, decided, realized, and phrases like was sure and was determined. All of these words and phrases distance the reader from the POV character, because the author is intruding on the story, telling what the character is experiencing. Instead of “He heard a gunshot,” try “A shot rang through the air.” Instead of “She felt sick,” try “Nausea churned in her gut.” Instead of “She was determined not to fall for him again,” try “No way was she going to fall for that dark charm again.”

  1. Try to describe emotions rather than naming them. This isn’t to say that you will never name an emotion, but showing the character feeling and acting is much more powerful. Abstract words don’t evoke emotion. When describing an emotion, consider its physical effects on the body, the actions and behaviors of someone experiencing it, and thoughts in keeping with that particular emotion.

In Out for Justice, the heroine, a homicide detective discovers that the latest victim of a serial killer is her cousin. Telling her reaction using a shallow point of view, we would say, “Lexi was shocked and horrified.” In deep point of view, the reader instead experiences those emotions with Lexi:

Lexi shook her head. The ground seemed to tilt beneath her and she took a stumbling step backward to steady herself. A scream of protest clawed its way up her throat, followed by a wave of nausea that almost brought her to her knees.
Alan’s words finally penetrated her befuddled brain, several seconds too late.
“Lexi, it’s Kayla.”

  1. Try to eliminate dialogue tags as much as possible. By their very nature, dialogue tags (he said, she whispered, etc.) are “telling.” Action and emotion beats show the reader not only who is speaking but also what that character is thinking, feeling and doing. Instead of “talking heads,” we have real flesh-and-blood characters. In the following snippet of conversation from Trust My Heart, the action and emotion beats give the reader insight into the characters that simple tags wouldn’t.

She picked up her coffee cup and washed the Danish down with a loud slurp. “So you’re single? No wife? No girlfriend?”
He cocked a brow at the intrusion into his privacy. But something told him this fiery-haired Bernie wasn’t much for convention.
“I’m not married.” He’d made that mistake once. Two years and a quarter of a million dollars later, he was once again single.
“Don’t worry, you’re still young.” She gave his hand a couple of pats. “You’ve got plenty of time.”
He stifled a snort. Thirty wasn’t exactly young. And if single was an ailment, he wasn’t looking for a cure.

  1. Incorporate sensory details. Showing what a character is seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling is one of the most effective ways to immerse a reader into a scene. Choose two or three vivid details, but make sure they are things the character would reasonably notice at that time. Here is the beginning of a scene from Hidden Identity that incorporates the senses of sight and hearing.

Time moved at a snail’s pace.
Meagan sighed and dropped her gaze from the clock on the wall to the book of poetry lying open in her lap. Voices buzzed around her, and across the room, a mother tried to quiet a crying baby.

A half page later, the hero appears, and we have the senses of smell, sound and touch.

A familiar scent wafted toward her, the faintest hint of evergreen, tipped with spice. Her thoughts tumbled over one another.
“Mind if I interrupt your reading?” The voice close to her ear was liquid smooth, sending goose bumps cascading over her.

For more information on this topic, Kathrese McKee, author and editor, offers a great resource. She has written an amazing booklet titled Mastering Deep POV, which takes a passage, sentence by sentence, and transforms it from shallow to deep point of view. She offers the booklet free to all her newsletter subscribers. You can find her at http://www.wordmarkeredits.com/.

Now go back through your current work in progress and see how deep you can go. Reach into the heart of your character and tap into all that emotion. And step out of the way. Your reader will remember your story and characters long after THE END.


Going Deep: Elicit Greater Emotion Through DEEP POV by Carol J. Post (Click to Tweet)

Don’t just write about the character; become the character.~ Carol J. Post (Click to Tweet)

From medical secretary to court reporter to property manager to owner of a special events decorating company, Carol J. Post’s resume reads as if she doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. But one thing that has remained constant through the years is her love for writing. She currently pens fun and fast-paced inspirational romance and romantic suspense stories. Her books have been nominated for a RITA® award and an RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Book Award.

Carol lives in sunshiny Central Florida with her husband, who is her own real-life hero, and writes her stories under the shade of the huge oaks in her yard. Besides writing, she works alongside her music minister husband singing and playing the piano. She enjoys sailing, hiking, camping—almost anything outdoors. Her two grown daughters and grandkids live too far away for her liking, so she now pours all that nurturing into taking care of a fat and sassy black cat and a highly spoiled dachshund.

Connect with Carol at her website, www.caroljpost.com, Facebook (www.facebook.com/caroljpost.author), or Twitter (www.twitter.com/caroljpost). For regular updates, sign up for Carol’s newsletter (http://bit.ly/2dKK9CE)

Book Blurb:
Grant McAllister arrives in Murphy, North Carolina, with one aim: to sell his inherited property and leave as quickly as possible. The big-city lawyer has no interest in his late, estranged grandparents or the dilapidated mansion he just acquired. After his high-profile divorce, he should be avoiding perky reporters, too. But Jami Carlisle is honest, funny, and undeniably appealing.
After breaking up with her safe-but-smothering boyfriend, Jami is determined to ace her first big assignment. A story about the McAllister estate is too intriguing to ignore—much like its handsome, commitment-phobic heir. Thanks to her digging, the pieces of Grant’s fraught family history are gradually fitting into place, but also upending all his old beliefs.
The two draw closer as they share their dreams, until misread signals and misunderstandings begin to test their trust. But in the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there’s healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what’s needed to finally guide him home…

Never Give Up – The World Needs Our Stories – Kelli Stuart

Like A River Cover - 200X300The World Needs Our Stories

by Kelli Stuart

It took me a decade to write my first novel. Really, it took longer than that, but “a decade” is such a neat and tidy way of saying it took an extremely long time. From the day I typed the very first word of my first draft, to the day the book finally landed on bookshelves, was seventeen years. More than a decade for those who are good at math. I’m equal parts proud of how long it took me to write this book, and a little embarrassed. Really, when you think of some of the most prolific writers, and their abilities to pump out great books every few years, one novel in seventeen years isn’t something to brag about. I try not to dwell on that, though, because what good is comparing my journey to anyone else’s, right? 

This book took time because I refused to rush the story. It is historical fiction, set in World War II Soviet Ukraine, which meant sifting through mountains of propaganda in order to find out the truth of those days. It required me speaking with over 100 former Soviet veterans, listening to their stories and feeling the emotion of what they experienced. I needed to get this story right, not only because I wanted to present the reader with a factually accurate historical fiction novel, but also because I wanted to honor the people of Ukraine, who’s country was the central focus of the novel. I also got married, moved across country a few times, had four children, and worked as an editor/ghostwriter/blogger in those years. There weren’t copious amounts of spare time from which to draw. In the end, however, it didn’t matter because when I finally finished the book I knew it was right. I had taken my time, and I’d written a book I could be proud of. 

Had I pushed it through ten years ago, it wouldn’t have been the right story. I needed to live a little, to experience life and the world in order to really tell the story as it needed to be told. There is a feeling of urgency in the writing world. We all know that there’s nothing new under the sun, and that we’re simply looking for new and fresh ways to tell the same old story, but still…we don’t want to be left behind. It’s true that some writers are prolific. Some people have a lot of words, and somehow they manage to organize all those words into book after book, story after story, and I applaud them for it! Others have, perhaps, an equal amount of words, but putting those thoughts together cohesively takes a little more time. One isn’t better than the other as long as neither gives up. I wanted to give up on my book multiple times over the years. I was certain I wasn’t cut out for this fiction writing thing. I tried over and over to convince myself to just walk away. Be a mom. Be a wife. Be a blogger. All those things were fine. Yes, those things are fine – they’re wonderful, in fact – but I had a story, and I needed to tell it. For this reason alone, I couldn’t begin another book project in all those years. I tried to put the novel aside and work on different ideas, but it was as though that one book had occupied all the brain space available, and there was no freeing up space unless I finished. 

Finishing was only half the battle, though, because after typing The End, I needed to find someone who would read it. And so began the arduous process of finding an agent, and then a publisher, and once again fighting the urge to just walk away. “Fiction is a tough sell.” I heard this line over and over as I pitched my book. Apparently in my “decade” of research and writing, fiction faded into the shadow of non-fiction. According to my pile of rejection letter, the masses had spoken, and fiction was the red-headed stepchild of the literary world. Still there, but treated mostly as an annoyance. Now, had I been willing to turn Hitler into a vampire, and throw in a few zombies, I might have gotten this show on the road a little sooner (and don’t think I didn’t consider it). But again, the integrity of the story forced me to wait, to be patient, and to refuse to give up. Fiction may be a tough sell, but the power of story is never going away. Story is the vehicle from which all of life can be revealed. From the very beginning of time, story has been the way that we’ve communicated. There is great power behind story, and so we the storytellers can’t give up, no matter what the popular market tells us. Putting in the time and effort to tell the right story in the right way is a daunting process. Of course we’ll want to give up at times, because writing is hard. But we cannot quit telling stories. So I’ll keep on writing and you will, too! Whether the book takes six months or a decade-ish, let’s agree not to give up on story, okay?

Because the world needs our stories, and we need to believe that.

 Kelli Stuart is a storyteller at heart with an affinity for languages, travel, and history. She is fluent in the Russian language, and spent over a decade researching the effects of World War II on the former Soviet Union. Kelli’s first novel, Like a River From its Course, is an epic story of war, love, grief, and redemption set in World War II Soviet Ukraine. It released in June 2016. Kelli lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband and four children.
Purchase Like a River From Its Course today!

Shifty-Shifty ~ How to Shift From 1st to 3rd Person by Varina Denman

How to Shift (Smoothly) From 1st to 3rd Person, and Back Again
Varina Denman
When I drafted my first novel, I didn’t know it was against the rules to switch back and forth from 1st to 3rd person. My main character’s POV was in 1st which felt natural, but after a while, I wanted to let the reader see inside the hero’s head, so I plopped down a chapter in 3rd and continued drafting a crazy mixed-up jumble.
THEN, I discovered craft books. Oh me, oh my, I had broken the rules, but no … maybe not. It depended on which books and blogs I read. So I toyed with the manuscript, tweaking and re-writing, and after a while … those POV shifts almost worked. Over the course of three books, I learned a lot about POV shifts, and now I’d give anything to be able to go back and edit that first manuscript just a teensy bit more.
As a reader, many times I find myself in the middle of a chapter, only to realize I’m in the wrong character’s head. One time, I went back and skimmed several pages, re-living every word through the correct person’s perspective. So very annoying, but it taught me something. In my own writing, I need to make POV shifts easy for the reader, and now I follow a simple rule of thumb.
When switching from 1rd to 3rd (or vice versa), special care should be taken with the VERY FIRST sentence of the scene.
Even the first WORD, if possible. I need to cement the new POV in the reader’s mind, and the closer to the beginning of the scene the better. Here’s an example of the first line of a chapter written in 3rd person in Clyde’s perspective. The preceding chapter was in 1st in Lynda’s perspective.
Clyde wondered if he would always attend worship alone. As he slipped through the double doors of the Trapp church building and stood in the tiny foyer he could hear Dodd Cunningham teaching a Bible lesson behind a hollow door.
This works because I’ve immediately grounded Clyde with an internal thought to put the reader right in the character’s head. In the first two words of the chapter, the reader has no doubt in whose perspective the chapter is written (because Lynda can’t know what Clyde is wondering.)
This technique grows weaker when it is placed deeper into the scene. If I had switched the two sentences in the example, putting the action first, it would have muddied things up, because Lynda is capable of describing Clyde’s actions from her 1st person perspective.
If smooth enough, the untrained reader won’t even notice the switch from 1st to 3rd, and that’s my goal.
The goal is not to make a smooth transition, but an invisible one.
In order to check the invisibility of the shift, it’s good practice to read aloud the last paragraph of the preceding chapter followed by the first paragraph of the new one. I put myself in the reader’s chair, and determine if the transition is smooth enough to avoid confusion.
This all seems simple enough, right? But … oh, dear … there’s bad news:
It’s more difficult shifting from 3rd to 1st
Personally, when I read a book, third person is easier for me to digest. I feel as though the story is laid out in pieces, and I merely come along and pick them up. 1st person takes a little more work, because I’m becoming the character. Even more difficult, is reading from 3rd straight into 1st, because I have to adjust my thinking.
Once again, the trick is to put the reader into the head of the POV character as soon as possible. The problem lies in the fact that if I jump into 1st person narrative immediately after a 3rd person chapter, the reader has no idea who that 1st person character is. Not only is it jarring and confusing, but the reader is likely to throw down the book in frustration. So …
When switching from 3rd to 1st, I must label the POV character before giving the internal thought.
I have two options. In the first, I use another character to identify the POV character through a line of direct address. This points-out who the “I” is going to be, so the reader is prepared for the 1st person internal thought.
“Lynda, that man wants you.”
I pressed my lips together and scowled at Dixie, ending the conversation before it started.
The dialogue tells the reader that Lynda is in the room, and the very next sentence puts the reader in Lynda’s head, showing that this chapter is in 1st person, Lynda’s perspective. The internal thought isn’t in the first words of the chapter, so clearly, the shorter the dialogue the better. I also leave off dialogue tags here, making the distance from the word Lynda to the internal thought as short as possible.
Another way to label the POV character is to tag an inanimate object.
Lynda’s Makeup and Stuff.
The stenciling on my cosmetic case had faded, but I could still make out Velma’s handwriting.
This is the same principle as using a line of dialogue, only it gives you the freedom to have the character in a scene alone. Another option is to show a text message, or voicemail, or—with a subtle twist on the dialogue idea—have the character remember a line of dialogue from a previous scene.
In spite of going to great lengths to soften the transition for readers, POV shifts can still be jarring, but it seems that readers have learned to adjust as we writers stretch the limits and change the rules. And that’s good for us, because it’s fun to be able to give readers a different literary experience.
What tricks do you use to make POV shifts smooth or possibly … invisible?

Varina Denman writes stories about the unique struggles women face. A native Texan who spent her high school years in a small Texas town, Varina now lives near Fort Worth with her husband and five mostly grown children. Her passion is helping others make peace with their life situations. Varina’s Mended Hearts series is a compelling blend of women’s fiction and inspirational romance. Connect with Varina through her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Sarah Sundin ~ It’s A Mystery to Me….Mesmerizing Mysteries and How to Master Them

Mesmerizing Mysteries and How to Master Them
by Sarah Sundin 

What makes a satisfying mystery? As in all novels, we need intriguing lead characters, a captivating premise, and a setting that supports the story on both a physical and emotional level. But mysteries also have a cast of suspects and an interwoven plot with suspects and investigators acting and reacting to each other. Ideally, the reader figures out the mystery around the same time as the sleuth does. Too obvious and the reader is bored. Too opaque and the reader is annoyed.

When I tackled my first mystery plotlines in the Waves of Freedom series, I found I needed new ways to develop my secondary characters and plot. As an outline-oriented plotter, I laid this all down in advance so I had a clear roadmap when writing my rough draft. But a seat-of-the-pants writer may find these methods helpful when analyzing the rough draft before editing.

Suspicious Suspects

Well-developed secondary characters are necessary in any novel, but in mysteries the author needs to dig even deeper. The story needs a number of suspects, both guilty and innocent, for the sleuth to investigate.

To develop the suspects, I filled out character charts—a shortened version of the questionnaire I use for heroes and heroines, with some additional specialized questions.

To understand each person, I filled out information about his appearance, family, upbringing, education, employment, morals, personality, strengths, and weaknesses. I want to know what makes him tick.

Next, I examined why the character is qualified to be a suspect. How is he clever, resourceful, knowledgeable, or skilled? What does he bring to the table in the story?

What is his driving passion? Does she want something badly enough to break the law to get it? Does he love someone so obsessively that he’ll do anything to help—or have—this person? Along these lines, what is her greatest fear and what will she do to make sure it doesn’t come to pass? What is his greatest secret and what will he do to keep it in the dark?

How does she act suspicious? If she’s guilty, how is she concealing her actions? If he’s innocent, how does it look as if he’s concealing something? Maybe he’s hiding an affair, or a surprise party, or an unrelated crime, or a secret from his past.

Each suspect needs to have the classic “motive, means, and opportunity.” Each must look as if he could and would commit the crime. But you can create “holes”—an airtight alibi or a seeming lack of connection to the victim.

Each suspect needs to look evil enough to have committed the crime. And—this is important—each needs to look innocent enough not to have committed the crime. Give each one, including the actual villain, some positive traits—kindness, humor, devotion, chivalry, courage, standing up for the downtrodden, charitable giving, excellence in his field—traits that make the sleuth and the reader write him off as a suspect.

Next, write a brief sketch of the plot from his point-of-view. What actions does he commit? How does he react to the story events, investigators, and other suspects?

Puzzling Plot

Now to set your cast in motion. You might have a dozen suspects, an amateur sleuth, and a detective. They interact with each other, respond to story events and each other, and drop clues and red herrings. They lie, conceal, and deliberately mislead.

It was enough to make me pound my head on my keyboard.

Instead I made a chart.

In a table format, I set up columns for each suspect and each investigator, including my amateur sleuth heroine.

Each row is for a scene in the novel—or for the time between scenes—and I shade these in different colors. For the scenes, I fill in what each character does or says, what others say about her, or any clues that point to her.

Just as important—the rows for time between scenes. This is what happens offstage. Perhaps a hitch in chapter 10 causes the villain to change plans. Perhaps a clue in chapter 20 leads the police to search Innocent Suspect A’s apartment. Perhaps that search makes Suspect A panic and plant evidence to place Suspect B at the crime scene.

The chart format allowed me to make sure each suspect followed a natural plot arc and acted and reacted in character. I could track what my heroine learns, when she does so, and whom she suspects most at each moment.

For you seat-of-the-pants writers who discover the true villain along with your point-of-view character, this can help you backtrack and plant appropriate story elements.

Done well, your conclusion will be a logical surprise, and your readers will be delighted.


Sarah Sundin is the author of eight historical novels, including Anchor in the Storm. Her novel Through Waters Deep was named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and her novella “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in Where Treetops Glisten was a finalist for the 2015 Carol Award. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. She also enjoys speaking for church, community, and writers’ groups. Please visit her at http://www.sarahsundin.com.