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  • Writer's pictureYessica Jain

Deep Third POV

Whether or not deep third deserves to be its own POV is a subject of controversy among writers. After all, we are always taught three POVs: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Sometimes, we split third-person POV into omniscient (where the narrator knows all) and limited (where the narrator knows only what one character knows). Deep third is a version of the limited third-person perspective, in which the narrator is practically the character. It is a way of writing that is, in many ways, superior to any of the other third person POVs, especially for works targeted toward young adult and older audiences.

What is Deep Third POV?

As I mentioned, writing in deep third means writing from the lens of a single character. This means the reader only knows what the character knows, similar to first-person POV. While the limited third-person narrator might notice some things in the character’s immediate surroundings, the deep third narrator will only do so if the character notices it themself.

So, if the main character is not very observant, the deep third narrator may not be able to provide a lot of details about the setting. If the main character is an overthinker, the narrator will probably explain the pros and cons of every possible decision. While this may create some unreliability in the narration, it allows for a more personal understanding of the POV character. It involves explaining the character’s feelings and thoughts as the events unfold and making the reader share them. The reader becomes closer to the character and becomes more invested in the story.

Writing in deep third means eliminating any vocabulary that implies that the narrator is distinct from the character. Phrases like she thought, he wondered, they saw, etc. all create distance between the reader and the character. Instead, opt to explain exactly what the main character thought, wondered, or saw, and understand that the reader will make the assumption that the main character is thinking about this. However, when describing another character, you want to add language that implies ambiguity. How often are you sure what another person is thinking or feeling? Probably not very often. So, when your narrator is describing external characters, adding words like seemed, appeared, and probably help the reader understand that this is coming from the lens of a single character.

Deep Third vs. First Person

A lot of the advice for writing deep third mimics advice for writing from a first-person POV. So, why should you pick one over the other?

First-person POV tends to allow for more introspection. The character is speaking to the reader and explaining their own thoughts and predictions. However, it binds you to the character’s voice.

With deep third, you can break from the character’s voice because the narrator isn’t the character; they just see everything the way the character does. This means you can write in your own style even if it doesn’t match the character. Importantly, deep third POVs tend to focus more on the present and the actions that are happening. You can definitely describe the character’s thoughts, but less so than if the character themself was narrating the story.

And of course, there’s the matter of personal preference. Do you want to use first-person or third-person pronouns throughout your story? If you plan on switching narrators between chapters or sections of your novel, would writing from a third-person perspective make it easier to keep track?

POV is one of the most important literary devices because it spans the entire story. Changing the POV can really change the way a reader consumes your writing, so you need to think about what makes the most sense for your story, your audience, and your own writing style.

What is your preferred POV? Let me know in the comments!

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