Revising for Deep Point of View, Plus Another Excerpt from The Keeper’s Curse
“Chronicling The Craft” is an article series where I share my experience with working on my YA fantasy novel THE KEEPER’S CURSE, starting with the first draft and now into revisions. Each article contains a progress update as well as writing / revising tips and excerpts from the updated draft. Today’s installment celebrates 80% completion of Draft #2 of THE KEEPER’S CURSE.
Well, this Chronicle is a bit overdue. 😄 I had hoped to post this when I reached the 70% percent mark for Draft #2. But between the December holidays, my 2-week blogging hiatus, and delays in drafting this post, we’re celebrating not 70% or 75%, but 80%. That’s not such a bad thing, though… because you know what it means, right?
Yes. I’m on the home stretch. I’ve reached the point where I can safely say, “I’M ALMOST DONE – AGAIN!!” (*fistpumps*) Honestly, the thought of closing in on the finish sends thrills up and down my spine… Yet it’s also overwhelming, because it means I’ll need to start thinking about Draft #3 soon.
Wow. I think I just deflated my own balloon of happiness. Anyways…
Considering how close I am to the end, I think this will be the second-to-last Chronicle for this go-round. So, the next time you see a Chronicling The Craft post, Draft #2 will be FINISHED. 😀 In the meantime, let’s get to the 80% progress report, followed by Today’s Tip and a new excerpt for your feedback.
The 80% Progress Report
On Sunday, I finished Page 314, which comes during Chapter 29. Here’s how the numbers look now:
Total Word Count:115,555 (2883 cut since the previous update, 16,158 since revisions began)
Total Page Count: 389 (3 cut since the last update, 52 since revisions began)
At this rate, Draft #2 will be well under 115K when it’s complete. That was my target, so I’m super-pleased that I’m almost there. That said, this baby is still too long. Some chapters will need serious trimming (as much as 500 to 1000 words) during Draft #3. But let’s leave that as food for thought. Right now, let’s CHARGE!
Speaking of the final charge, I’ve set a “deadline” of March 31st for finishing Draft #2. It seems doable with my current schedule and pace. But if I need an extra week or two, it won’t be the end of the world.
Also, remember the “Self-Edit Saver” Revision Checklist that debuted here last summer? I’ve continued using it during this revision cycle, and it’s been incredibly useful for keeping track of all the changes I want to make. I don’t know what I would have done without it! I’ve also been taking notes for upcoming scenes at the end of and between revising sessions. (See the above photo for an example.) This has helped me remember other revision ideas that come to me “on the fly” (ones that aren’t on my checklist, in other words) and improve my productivity. And I’m all for teaching myself how to write and revise smarter!
Today’s Tip: How to Revise Your Story to Achieve Deep Point of View
The Keeper’s Curse has gone through a few point of view changes in its lifetime. I started off with third-person, but grew dissatisfied with it because it kept my protagonist Eva at a distance. I felt like I was struggling to bring her to life. So, I switched to first-person, and the story has truly benefited from that change. Now, with Draft #2, I’m finishing the shift from third-person to first-person while working on a technique known as “deep point of view” (Deep POV).
What is Deep POV, you might ask? It’s a type of narration that relies on showing as opposed to telling, so the reader can experience the story with the protagonist(s). In other words, you become the character. You climb inside her head and write in such a way that readers live vicariously through her, feeling her emotions, understanding her worldview, seeing what she sees, smelling what she smells, etc. It can be intense and intimate, but it can also make the story more moving and exciting for your audience.
Deep POV isn’t limited to certain viewpoints or verb tenses. Published authors have successfully used it with first-person (I, me, my) and third-person (he / she, his / her, him / her) narration, and with past or present tense. That said, Deep POV isn’t for every writer. Perhaps it’s not right for a particular story, or you don’t feel comfortable writing from such a visceral perspective. That’s OK! However, if you’ve considered using Deep POV and you’re preparing to revise your manuscript, now is a good time to try it.
Of course, the clearest way of showing how to revise using Deep POV is through examples. So, with each of the following keys, I’ll feature brief samples from each draft of TKC. Draft #1 will represent “Distant POV” (a.k.a. not Deep POV), and Draft #2 will be “Deep POV.”
Key #1: Limit Dialogue Tags By Using Reaction Cues
In Deep POV, dialogue tags such as “he said,” “she shouted,” or “I whispered” are almost nonexistent. Do they help identify the speaker? Absolutely. Are they necessary? Not always. Instead, consider replacing dialogue tags with reaction cues such as body language, vocal quality, gestures, and other movements. These can clue readers in on a character’s personality or emotions while maintaining a genuine feel to the story.
Here are some tricks for effectively limiting dialogue tags and/or replacing them with reaction cues:
- Place a character’s dialogue in the same paragraph as their corresponding actions. You never want readers to be confused about which character is speaking at any given time. So, if Character A says something and Character B responds with both action and dialogue, make Character B’s content a new paragraph.
- In some cases, refrain from using reaction cues if the same characters are exchanging dialogue. Adding cues to every paragraph can bulk up your word count significantly. See if you can avoid using cues for a short stretch of dialogue while maintaining each character’s distinct voice. That said, this trick works best with dialogue between two characters. If a scene requires more characters, reaction cues for each speaker will be necessary. (Remember, you don’t want to confuse readers as to who’s speaking.)
- Be selective about the amount of reaction cues you use. Too many can have the same effect as “purple prose”: They can slow the story’s pace, make paragraphs longer than necessary, and increase the word count. Therefore, choose what you want to show with care. If a paragraph contains an overabundance of reaction cues, consider deleting one or two of them.
Distant POV, from Draft #1:
“But what’s a Bhadurak?” Willem’s voice stumbled over the last word as he pronounced it.
Vandar wore a look of amusement. He crouched down beside the Mountain Boy. “You’ve never heard the word in Commontongue before, have you?” Turning to me, he said, “What do the Mountain Folk call the Bhadurak in their language?”
“Vandar,” I warned.
“He asked us a question, Eva. It would be rude for us to not answer it.”
Deep POV, from Draft #2:
Willem grimaced. “But I don’t understand. What is a… Bhadurak?”
Shivers ran rampant as footsteps sounded closer behind me. When Vandar reached us, he crouched beside Willem, his expression emotionless. “You’ve never heard the word in Commontongue, have you? Perhaps Councilor Isonyeva can translate it for you.”
“Vandar – ”
“He asked us a question, Eva. It would be rude of us to not answer it.”
Key #2: Eliminate Sensing or Thinking Verbs
Sensing and thinking verbs are considered examples of “telling,” not “showing.” Thus, when revising for Deep POV, try to “show” what the character is thinking, smelling, seeing, etc. without actually using the verbs. This can often be achieved by using your word processor’s “Find” or “Search” function, selecting which instances of sensing or thinking verbs should go, and editing or rewriting as needed.
For clarity’s sake, sensing verbs are action words appealing to the five senses:
- He / she / I smell(s)
- He / she / I taste(s)
- He / she / I see(s)
- He / she / I hear(s)
- He / she / I feel(s) (as in touching something tangible, or being touched)
Thinking verbs, on the other hand, are action words dealing with thought processes:
- He / she / I think(s)
- He / she / I wonder(s)
- He / she / I know(s)
- He / she / I realize(s), and so on
Remember that your goal with Deep POV is to be the protagonist. If she thinks she’s being followed, would “She thought someone was following her” or “Someone was following her” get a stronger reaction from readers? Even better, which one makes you tense up? By writing what the protagonist experiences as if you’re her, you’ll pull readers further into the story without building a filter between then and your character.
That said, be cautious with which instances of sensing or thinking verbs you eliminate. It’s easy to fall into a “trigger-happy” pattern with the “Delete” button. Instead, read over each instance and consciously decide whether it should stay or go. There’s nothing wrong with sensing or thinking verbs appearing in dialogue or excerpts of “written text” from the story world. However, when the protagonist describes her observations or shares her thoughts with readers, that’s when you should consider such revisions.
Distant POV, from Draft #1:
Aurek nodded thoughtfully, then picked up the large piece of parchment lying next to him and brought it under the candlelight. I saw then that it was indeed a map, but not one of any of the Great Isle’s realms. Instead, it showed a labyrinth of pathways within a confined space, like secret passages inside a castle.
Deep POV, from Draft #2:
I squinted through the candlelight. Indeed the map did not depict mountain ranges, forests, or rivers. Instead, it showed a labyrinth of pathways within a confined space, like secret passages inside a castle.
Key #3: Use Reaction Cues Instead of Naming Emotions
This last technique has been the bane of my writing existence – because it’s so tempting, and so easy, to write phrases like “I was surprised,” “The wolf terrified her,” or “Anger boiled inside him.” However, by stating the character’s emotion, you’ve hopped into “telling” territory. How do you return to the “showing” side? By leaving out the emotion’s name completely, and relying on your character’s reaction.
Think about your own emotions. How do you react when you’re sad? Frightened? Ecstastic? What gestures or movements show those emotions outwardly? What kinds of thoughts occur in each instance? How does the feeling manifest itself internally (e.g., sensations in a particular body part, taut or relaxed muscles, taste in one’s mouth)? This last one (internal reaction) is especially important in Deep POV, because it draws readers deeper under the protagonist’s skin. We don’t merely know how she feels – we experience the feeling with her.
So, instead of “I was surprised,” you could write “I gasped” or “A sudden coldness struck my core.” Or, instead of “Anger boiled inside him,” you could say “He balled his hands into fists” or “Sickness seared through him”. A single phrase or sentence that describes the character’s immediate reaction gives readers another chance to connect with that character, and possibly feel those sensations and emotions as they occur.
If you want to try replacing stated emotions with external or internal reactions, start by asking yourself, “How does this character feel right now? How would she react? What internal sensation reflects her strongest emotion?” This can be challenging, so I highly recommend getting Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s Emotion Thesaurus. It can help you find fresh ways of expression character emotions, from physical movements to thought processes and physiological sensations.
Distant POV, from Draft #1:
I let my sights drift to the map again. Somehow I couldn’t shake the feeling that, despite everything he had said, Aurek was still withholding the entire truth from me. Why would he dance around it now and not when we played our daily game? Maybe he had been all along, without me realizing it. Discouraged, I sighed and rested my chin on my knuckles. Was I wrong to trust him if earning his was a game he forced me to play?
Deep POV, from Draft #2:
Foreboding crept along my skin. Everything about Aurek’s demeanor – his reluctance to look me in the eye, the uneasy stretch in his words, the way he clutched his pipe by its bowl – screamed secrecy. What was he withholding from me and Gidion? Why would he dance around the truth now if he was willing to share it with me during Temiro Ganoli?
Most Importantly, Make Sure You Know Your Protagonist Well
The better you understand your protagonist, the more genuine your writing from Deep POV will be. Her history, goals, and motivations as just as crucial as her personality, unique voice, and worldview. So, whether you’re preparing to write a first draft or undergo heavy revisions, take time to interview your protagonist and discover the details that will help you “become” her when you write.
For example, how does your character speak? How does she carry herself when she walks? Do these habits change with her emotions? Also, what kinds of biases does she have regarding her world and different cultures, belief systems, etc.? What does she think about herself? Does she care about how other people view her? Rhay Christou’s post about Deep POV at Writers In The Storm or Sky and Cait’s Beautiful People archives have other great questions you can use.
One last thing about Deep POV: It’s challenging to pull off, but it can be rewarding when you nail itit’s done right. Sometimes I get stuck on my revisions, or I forget to employ the above tips. Adopting new writing habits is like reminding yourself to stop biting your fingernails. (Oh, do I know what that’s like!) You’re teaching yourself to write in a new, hyper-vulnerable way. If you do try Deep POV, be patient with yourself. It may take more than one draft to catch all the necessary changes. That’s one of the reasons why TKC will need a third draft before it’s ready for beta-readers. However, when I look back on the instances where I did employ those tricks, I’m pleased with how they turned out.
Excerpts To Compare: A Scene from Chapter 21 of The Keeper’s Curse
Do today’s excerpts look familiar? They’re actually the complete scenes that use the examples from Key #3 above. See what kinds of changes you notice when you compare them, and let me know the following:
- What general comments do you have on the Draft #2 excerpt?
- Do you think Draft #2’s excerpt is an improvement over Draft #1’s? Why or why not?
- If you were reading the full manuscript, would the end of the Draft #2 version compel you to keep reading?
I found Aurek and Drasten on the cobblestone path leading to Benolav’s courtyard, their backs toward me as they talked. Drasten heard my booted footsteps on the stones first. The calm expression on his face turned to fire when he turned and saw me. “What do you want?” he barked. “Can’t you see we’re having a private conversation?”
I suppressed a groan. Drasten’s loathing was the last thing I wanted to endure that day. “Then I’ll wait until you’ve finished. I need to speak to Aurek.”
“No, you won’t. You’ll be a good Councilor for once and get back inside that castle.” Drasten started toward me. “I warned you not to go near my brother – ”
“And I told her not to listen to you, you oaf.” Aurek grabbed his brother by the shoulder and whirled him around to face him. “She’s doing us a massive favor. And unless you think you can find us another translator, you keep your mountain-mouth shut and your hands and weapons off of her. Understood?”
“Understood.” Drasten shook off Aurek’s grip, looking more annoyed than intimidated. He stomped back to the castle, glowering at me as he passed by.
Aurek shook his head. “He’ll never learn. And they say every family has its mule.” He brightened as his eyes met mine. “You said you needed to speak with me?”
I steadied myself with a deep breath. “Gidion said you want to leave tomorrow.”
Aurek’s hands went to his hips. “And you’re here to tell me that we shouldn’t.”
“Because I need more time. We found nothing when we researched the rune books yesterday. Gidion must have told you that. We’ll look through another row of shelves today, but I can’t guarantee – ”
“Then why aren’t you in the library now so we can find the runes before tonight’s banquet so we can leave at dawn?”
The deliberateness in Aurek’s answer struck me cold. He had been prepared for my rebuttal, and he wasn’t about to budge. I ran a hand through my autumn-streaked hair. “Aurek, we might not find the runes today. I’m not even certain we’ll find a book on ancient Fae here. But I need more than one day to determine that.”
“I don’t have another day to give you, Eva.” Impatience dripped from Aurek’s voice as he stepped closer. “Every day we’re here, we waste time that we could have spent on the road. Any more delays, and we might not get there until winter.”
“But we’re just seven days away from the Cavern!” I thrust a finger in the direction of the Raziurs. “We’ll be there before autumn starts in two weeks. Why are you even thinking about winter?”
Aurek’s throat rumbled with a half-sigh, half-growl. He turned away, his body rigid as he massaged his forehead. Confusion and frustration rendered me speechless as I watched him. Why was he being so stubborn? It wasn’t the first time he had stonewalled my suggestions, but this was uncalled for. And what was the urgency? Questions spun in my head until one turned itself over in time with my heartbeat. Was Aurek hiding something from me? If he was, how could he trust me with translating his map but not with the truth?
Steadying myself with a deep breath, I walked over to Aurek, stopping just shy of his shoulder. “Aurek,” I said in a softened tone, “we all want to finish this mission sooner rather than later. But we’re not bound to be there by a given day, and you must have known we’d run into delays. This map is another one. If you truly need those ciphers on your map translated before we enter the Cavern, you have to give me the time I need to do that. I can help you only if you let me. Please.”
Aurek was silent. His gaze was fixed on the cobblestones, his arms crossed over his chest so tightly that I thought his powerful, stone-like figure would crack. I wet my lips, knowing how I wanted – and needed – to end my appeal yet afraid of his reaction. “Aurek, please. Why do you want to leave so soon? Maybe if you told me, I’d understand – ”
“How many days?”
My resolve melted. Any hope I’d had that he’d open up to me dissipated. “Two? Maybe three?”
In a heartbeat I saw my mistake of giving him options. So did Aurek. “Two days,” he said before I could elaborate further. “Two days, and then we leave for the Cavern.” He spun on his heel then and strode toward the castle, leaving me too dumbstruck to follow him inside.
No longer hungry, I headed for the keep’s front entrance and hurried down the steps. The western sunrise behind us had begun to cast veils of rose-lavender light over the Hearthstone’s exterior. Aurek and Drasten stood on the cobblestone driveway that ringed the courtyard’s lone willow tree, their backs facing me as they spoke in low voices. Drasten heard my footsteps first. He turned, and his calm expression turned into a snarl. “What do you want?”
I staked my hands on my hips. That oaf was not going to intimidate me anymore. “I need to speak to Lord Kolsteg.”
“Go back inside. You’ll have to wait – ”
“Drasten.” Aurek’s frigid tone turned the name into a warning. “She’s a Councilor of Selanaan. You’ll address her properly no matter how much it displeases you.” He looked my way, then Drasten’s. “Go.”
Drasten’s nostrils flared. He shoved past me and stomped into the keep.
Aurek shook his head. “And Ondrus claims I don’t have a child to take care of.” He approached me then, his eyes soft and bright. “I’m sorry we didn’t see each other much yesterday. I didn’t expect King Benolav to be so… conversing, and time ran away from us.”
I rubbed my arm where Drasten had pushed me. “It’s all right. I was occupied as well.”
“So I was told. Will you go back to the library today?”
“Yes. That’s why I wanted to speak with you.” Heart thundering, I steadied myself with a breath. “Gidion said you want to leave tomorrow.”
The warmth Aurek had emanated fled with his hardened expression. “And?”
Sweet dielen above, he had expected me to question him. I tried not to clench my teeth. “I need more time. If Gidion told you I’d gone to the library, then he must have told you I had no luck finding anything about ancient Fei.”
“Eva, we may be welcome here, but we cannot overstay that welcome. Every day we’re here, we waste another day’s ride to the Cavern.”
“But we’re only one week away! It won’t kill us to spend a few days researching.”
Aurek reached into his trouser pocket – most likely for his pipe – but came up empty-handed. “Do you know what my men and I have gone through for this mission? Our Suderese friends and other Mountain Folk told us we were possessed to seek the relics. We barely earned enough financial support. Now we’ve grown impatient from all the delays.”
A fist of emotion twisted in my chest. “You call this a delay? Did you think I could translate the ciphers overnight? That I’m well versed in every Great Isle language in existence?”
“That’s not… ” He looked away, massaging his forehead. “What I meant was that we’d hoped to have reached the Cavern by now.”
His admission knocked the breath out of me. I stared at him, numb until the words spilled from my lips. “Aurek, what’s wrong? You’ve shown me kindness and friendship. You’ve helped me change my mind about your people. But ever since I convinced you to come here – no, ever since you gave me the map – you’ve changed. You act as though we’re late to the Cavern, as though you’re hiding something. Why?”
Aurek turned his back, a growl rumbling in his throat. Any hope that he would open up to me fluttered away like ash in the wind. Yet my resolve held firm. I had come for an explanation; I would not leave without one.
I crept toward Aurek until I stood by his shoulder, close enough to smell the pine and smoke scents still clinging to him. “I trusted you with my truth – an awful truth – and you forgave me. Now it’s your turn to trust me with yours. Tell me, please.”
Aurek fixed his gaze on the cobblestones, his arms crossed over his chest so tightly that I swore his powerful figure would crack. “How many days?”
The tension within me slackened. Had I convinced him? “Two? Perhaps three?”
In a wing-flick I saw my mistake. So did Aurek. “Two days. Then we leave for the Cavern.” He spun around and strode toward the keep, leaving me too dumbstruck to follow him.
What do you think of the excerpts above? Do you think the Draft #2 excerpt is an improvement over the Draft #1 excerpt?
Also, which kind of viewpoint are you using for your current WIP? How did you decide this? Do you find it easier to write in first person or third person?