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Deep POV exercise: Draft an authentic scene in 12 minutes 

 August 22, 2020

By  Sue Brown-Moore

Need a little help writing romance in Deep Point of View? Having trouble thinking like your character? Writing prompts like the Deep POV exercise below can help you get out of your own way

This Deep POV exercise will help you smash through writer's block in less time than it takes to drink your morning coffee. #WritingTips #DeepPOV

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Psst! If you're confused about what Deep POV is or aren't sure how to phrase your dialogue and prose for writing Deep Point of View, we'll talk about that too. Read on to get started! 

deep pov exercise

But first, Sue, remind me why we care about Deep POV?

Of course! The first step to writing in Deep Point of View is understanding what it is (and is not).

What is Deep Point of View, exactly? Read more in-depth about this writing style technique here.  

Writing in Deep POV (sometimes called "close narration" or "free indirect" style) pulls readers right into the heart of the character's journey. Deep Point of View is a style of fiction writing that minimizes narrative distance.

Deep POV is all about the maximizing the reader's immersion and delving seamlessly into the story's events through the essence of the character. 

To truly write Deep POV, you have to cozy up to your character in some pretty intimate ways... #DeepPOV #WritingPrompt

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And when you get it right, Deep Point of View adds layers and nuance to your story, scenes, and characterization.

To truly go deep, you have to cozy up to your character in some pretty intimate ways...

  • Maybe you already know your character, *ahem* intimately, and just need to identify the most important details for this scene
  • Or maybe you're still learning about your character and need to fully explore their backstory.

Either way, the writing prompt for Deep POV below will help crack open your character and layer emotion into your scene.

creative writing exercise for romance writers

Prep your mental canvas

The task of writing an entire story in Deep POV can be intimidating, so today's writing prompt exercise will focus on crafting a single short scene.

Before we start, let's settle into a productive writing mindset and charge up our creative energy. 

  1. Choose what single character you're focusing on today. You'll be writing from their perspective.
  2. Identify the one aspect of the character's backstory or core values you want to work with. Having a character profile handy will help you flow through this exercise (even if the profile isn't fully completed).
  3. Think of a few ways the aspect from #2 above manifests or affects the character. If you need help getting into the character's headspace, here's a checklist of 6 questions to ask yourself before you start the exercise.
  4. Challenge yourself to complete the following exercise in 12 minutes or less. Go ahead ahead pull up a timer.

Ready to get started? Let's do it!

writing prompt for deep pov

12-minute Deep POV writing exercise

Pull out your favorite pen and paper or open up a blank document—you may also want a timer—and follow the writing prompts below. Read each section entirely before starting that step. 

Your character walks into a room. Describe the room. Spend no more than 1 minute on this section. Don't dally!

  • What does the character notice about the tone of the room? (Ex: light level, color palette, setup, spaciousness, ambient sounds, etc) List the first 5 things that come to mind.
  • How does the room feel? (Ex: temperature, humidity, sixth sense, atmosphere, etc) List the first 3 you think of.
  • What items in the room does the character notice first? (Ex: knick knacks, art, furniture, photos, etc) List up to 4.

Your character's focus turns inward. Identify what they feel and remember. Spend no more than 3 total minutes on this step. Keep your exploration brief!

  • Choose one or two of the items from above and explore why they caught the character's eye. Jot down some quick character discovery notes. Two or three points for each item will do. Take whatever comes to mind.
  • Focus on one of these exploration notes. Ideally, it's related to the character aspect you identified in Step 2 of our pre-exercise prep.
  • Free-write a paragraph or two that digs deeper into this part of the character. Don't try to write the scene yet, just emphasize what the character is feeling as they view this object and how that feeling and object connect to their past. Try to limit yourself to 2 minutes for this step.

Re-focus on the scene. Write the first draft of the scene. Spend up to 5 minutes on this step.

  • Review the character exploration paragraph(s) you wrote in the previous step and highlight any key verbs, adjectives, or meaningful phrases that sum up the character's mindset. Write these down for reference later.
  • Rewind your mental marker to the moment the character first set foot in the room earlier in this exercise.
  • On a new line, begin writing the scene. How do they approach the room? When do they see the item? What is their initial reaction to it? What images and feelings does it conjure? What sort of teaser or transition might you end the scene on? Try to limit this first draft to 500 words or a few paragraphs.

Attune your creative energy to the character's mindset. Revise your first scene draft. Spend your remaining 3 minutes on this step.

  • Look back at your notable key verbs, adjectives, and phrases from the previous (first draft) section. 
  • Review your first scene draft and highlight any places you used these key terms. This should be a quick scan. Tip: Highlight the key terms in blue or green
  • Review your draft again. But this time, highlight or strike through all the verbs, adjectives, and phrases that do not support the character's mindset or scene feel. Replace a few of these with unused characterization keywords or scene-setting synonyms. Tip: If you use highlights in this step, consider orange or yellow.
free writing exercises

Why this exercise worked (or didn't work) for you

Did this technique help you pull layers of emotion and hints of backstory into your scene? Read over your final version and consider these questions:

  • Does the scene hit the right tonal notes? 
  • Does the phrasing hint at or reveal the character's inner conflicts, past traumas, or memorable life events?
  • Does it make you feel something as a reader?
  • Does it grab your attention and make you want to know more?

Try trading your scene draft with a friend. If the answer to any of the questions above is "no", you may not have gone deep enough into your character's psyche. Or you may not yet know enough about them to understand their instinctive reactions.

Try filling out a Character Profile to fully explore their story growth needs.

If you had trouble settling into a calm, creative mental space before this exercise, try a brief, focused meditation.

If you're new to meditation, the Calm app has a wonderful introduction series and some lovely music and guided journeys.

how to write deep pov

How to improve your Deep POV scene

If your scene is still missing that je ne sais quoi, try these techniques for learning how to write in Deep POV that resonates.

Tip #1: Dip just beneath the surface

The point of this exercise was simply to explore the character and layer some of their emotional state into a brief scene.

The scene shouldn't info dump or give away all the character's secrets, but it should align with the character's mindset in this moment of time.

Remember that Deep POV is an extension of Limited Perspective.

It is possible to go TOO deep in #DeepPOV. #WritingPrompt

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And if you found that you went too deep and revealed too much, try to tease, hint, and gloss over the hard-hitting backstory moments next time you work through this exercise. 

Tip #2: Pretend you are the character

Why all the teasing and hinting? This scene is just a snapshot in the character's life experience, like a brief set of moments in your day. 

Think back on a time a sight, smell, sound, taste, or sensation triggered a memory. How deep into that memory did you go? Was it a brief flash of memory? Did you end up daydreaming and distracted for an hour? Did you have a physiological reaction? How quickly were you able to move on, and did this memory fade quickly or stick with you?

The answers to all of these questions gives you insight into how powerful that memory was and how primed you were to deal with it at that particular moment. 

Your characters experience life in the same way. So your scene needs to reflect what the character experiences, remembers, and feels in that moment. Whatever that may be for your particular scene. 

It is possible to go TOO deep in #DeepPOV. #WritingPrompt

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Sometimes we think we're writing in Deep POV, but we haven't gone deep enough into the character's head to really feel and act as that person. Bestselling paranormal romance author Rebecca Zanetti found that, for her, the Deep POV mindset clicked when she realized she was describing the wrong desk.

Tip #3: Get rid of filter words

One of the easiest ways to deepen your writing Point of View is to get rid of words like seethinkfeelhearsmelltaste, and any other verb that directly tells the reader the character is experiencing one of the five senses. 

Imagine you just touched a hot stove burner accidentally. You'd probably jerk your hand away, maybe stick it in your mouth and suck on the tender spot. You'd likely feel some rush of physical sensation. You might even curse out loud—something like, "Fuck, that's hot!"

But you probably wouldn't narrate your own internal thoughts to yourself about how hot it was and how it hurt so much you had to suck on the burn—that's a sign of "telling" rather than "showing". You'd simply react

In Deep POV, your characters should react naturally, and your narrative should always "show", not "tell".

Filter words are sabotaging your Deep POV. #DeepPOV #WritingTips

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There's a subtler level of filter verbs—like want, need, hate, love—you should avoid as well, but we'll save that for another lesson. And keep in mind that Deep Point-of-View dialogue tags don't need to be explicit. You can take advantage of the power of direct speech and have the character simply speak the line.

Tip #4: Adjust your narrator Point of View

Since character voice instinctively feels more intimate in 1st POV, first-person narration is a natural way to dip your toes into writing Deep Perspective. But writing in 1st Person isn't a requirement, and First Person doesn't guarantee Deep POV. 

What POV did your story come out in? First person? Third person? Second person?

Did you write in a different point of view than you normally do? If so, did that make you feel closer to the character, or did it cause mental friction? Did it open up your vocabulary and sensory perception to give you a new perspective into the scene?

If you wrote in your natural narrative point of view, try converting the scene to something less comfortable. 

  • If you wrote in first person, try it in Second Person POV.  What phrase revisions immediately come to mind? How does it change the tone of the scene or the way you approach your prose style? 
  • Similarly, if you usually write in Third Person point of view, try writing in first POV. It may be uncomfortable at first, but give it a go and see if you can unlock some new character discoveries or writing techniques.

Don't wreck Deep POV by getting too comfortable in your own style. #WritingFiction #DeepPOV

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Be careful not to get too comfortable in your style. Discomfort sparks personal growth—that's a principle you can apply to both your character arcs and your personal goals.

Tip #5: Reuse this Deep POV exercise anytime you're stuck

Getting into your viewpoint character's head without introducing your omniscient POV author bias can be challenging. Here are some tips to get you into the right mindset.

  • Think about the scene you want to write and the elements you're unsure of. Then file it away to the back of your mind and do a mundane physical activity (like washing dishes by hand). Let your mind wander. As your body goes through the repetitive, automatic motions, your mind will be free to work its magic.
  • Perform a rule-based mental activity—like organizing a spreadsheet or calculating ad spend ROI—before starting. Forcing your mind to switch from a restricted, analytical mindset to a free-flowing, creative one can spark new energy.
  • Put the story out of sight and mind for however many hours, days, weeks, or months you need to get some emotional and mental distance from it. Come back to it when you're feeling refreshed.
  • Use a meditation technique to clear your mind before you start. (Not sure how to meditate? Try out the Calm app!)

Why is Deep POV so difficult to master?

Editor Arlene Prunkl explains how, as the author, you intrinsically know too much. Your natural tendency is to see the story in 'god mode' (omniscient narrator perspective), and you're susceptible to author intrusion. To get into the character's head, you have to shed your own skin and become someone else. And that can be both freeing and terrifying.

Love tinkering with words?

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creative writing prompt

Tell me how this Deep POV exercise worked for you!

Did it spark any Aha! moments or open up any new lines of creativity for you?

Did it help you identify places in your writing process to go a little deeper?

Did it give you any insight into revising your prose for Deep POV at a line level?

Most of my personal coaching work is with romance writers. While today's free-writing exercise was pretty general and could be used by writers of nearly any genre, I'd love to know if you want to see more creative writing exercises just for the romance genre.

Leave a comment below!

About the author 

Sue Brown-Moore

Creator. Speaker. Feminist. Human. (She/her)

Known for being a tough editor with a soft touch, Sue Brown-Moore specializes in teaching revision techniques for character-driven fiction and champions progressive, inclusive literature. Sue helps writers rediscover their inner spark and push through vexing story problems using the character-first editing and storystorming techniques she teaches in her online university.

Sue has been featured in writing-focused events and publications, like Publisher’s Weekly and online writing summits, and the stories she collaborates on as both a freelance and acquiring editor have been celebrated with nominations and wins for industry awards like the Vivian, the Golden Heart, and the Lambda.

Learn more about learning from Sue and choose the confidence-building workshop, playbook, or bite-sized training that’s right for you, here on Sue's website.

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