As a writer it’s your job to curate and guide your readers scene by scene through your story. Your narrator or viewpoint character is the conduit or lens through which the reader ‘sees’ the story. Scene building begins with defining the conflict and action of each scene and understanding your viewpoint character’s main feelings/emotions, how these emotions will play out, and how his/her emotions will change by end of scene.
Which means we need to talk more about deep viewpoint. Deep viewpoint creates intimacy between the reader and character. The reader penetrates and inhabits the character’s psyche, lives his or her experiences, feels what he or she feels.
It removes filtering devices like she saw, or she thought, or she felt. Instead you’re plopping the reader into the character’s skin creating that intimacy I just mentioned.
Here’s an example of deep pov from the achingly-beautiful novel City of Thieves
by David Benioff:
“Don’t look so sad. You saved my life tonight.”
I shrugged. I was afraid that if I opened my mouth I would say something mawkish and stupid, or worse, that I would start to cry through a night like this one, and I was convinced that the sniper from Archangel was the only girl I would ever love.
Her gloved hand still rested on my cheek. “Tell me your last name.”
“I’ll track you down, Lyova Beniov. All I need is the name.” She leaned forward and kissed me on the lips. Her mouth was cold, her lips rough from the winter wind, and if the mystics are right and we are doomed to repeat our squalid lives ad infinitum, at least I will always return to that kiss.
Writing in a deep POV is similar to method acting. Lee Strasberg’s Method earned currency from his Actors Studio and its offshoots. It teaches actors to link emotional moments from their own lives into their character. More precisely the actor excavates his/her deepest and harshest experiences to lend them to a character.
Similarly, as you write, you need to slip into your character like
an actor slips into character. Like an actor preps for the scene, memorizing his lines, imagining it moment by moment, then dredging up memories in order to transform into his character.
Here are some questions to help you out:
How is your character standing/ sitting?
How is he holding his shoulders? Head? Neck? Arms?
Abdomen soft or tucked in?
Is is he tense? Guarded? Scared?
How does he reveal his emotions? Feel them? Hide them?
What does his neck feel like?
What about his extremities?
What does his breath feel like? Shallow? Deep? Rapid?
What is he most focused on?
What is he trying to shut out?
Can he see clearly?
What about his field of vision? Is his focus on objects or characters close up or faraway?
Is what he’s seeing surprising, shocking, normal?
What smells are present?
Pleasant? Nasty? Scary?
What is his skin in contact with?
Skin tingling, burning, itchy, painful?
Body aches? Injuries? Sharp pain? Dull pain?
Senses sharp or dulled?
Does he feel trapped? At ease? Steady? Wary? Off balance? Cool? Nervous?
Is he sweating? Cold? Queasy?
Distractions? If so, how close/ far away?
If he is feeling calm, scared, confused or crazy where does he feel it in his body?
Is he sweating? Palms clammy? Heart rate?
Is he operating at full strength, half strength, missing sleep, wounded?
Fun, isn’t it?