You’ve probably heard the term “deep point of view.” You’ve maybe read that it’s the best way to connect with readers, but deep point of view does more than that, much more. Deep Point of View connects readers to your story, but writing deep point of view may also do something for you.
Recently, I gave a talk to a group of writers and one man asked me if I found, as he did, that writing in the point of view of different characters helped me to empathize with people in real life. I quickly answered “yes!” because it’s something I have found to be true, and notice this grows the more I write. Empathy for others. Understanding. Compassion for people with different backgrounds, upbringing, and even different ways of thinking.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
–The Dalai Lama
This phenomenon began even before I started my writing career when I discovered reading. Books can take a reader inside the person, something video games, television, and movies can’t do. Sure, we can watch others feel—especially if the acting is good—but when reading, when experiencing deep point of view, we can become that person, completely. Our ego disappears and whether we agree or not, we understand someone beyond ourselves, which is the beginning of compassion.
Deep point of view (POV) is something writers talk about quite often, and using POV appropriately can make a book or break it. Point of View is a tool to move the reader through the story world—from encompassing the world with a wide worldview to stages of bringing the reader in close to the character through different levels of psychic distance. Some Points of View (like omniscient) has a more distant feel because we see the story from an eye from above—one that sees all. Then there are moments when the storytelling lens is right over the character’s shoulder and we see what he does and where he goes as we walk alongside and experience the fictional world with him. There are also times when the writer draws the reader right into a character’s skin and we feel what the character does and are privy to the character’s thought process. Personally, this is when I enjoy reading (and writing!) the most when I feel and think like that character. When I’m at one hundred percent empathy.
This is one of the greatest gifts writing can bring, to non-fiction as well as fiction readers and writers. The chance to not only look beyond ourselves and understand someone but the opportunity to feel what someone else does: the joy, pain, love, heartbreak; an entire range of emotions from someone else’s point of view. If more people opened beyond themselves to experience character (real or fictional), perhaps the place within them—where understanding, empathy, and compassion for others happens—might grow stronger. And wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing? As always, I am awed at how the truths of the writing life are congruent with the truths of life beyond the page. So read. And write. And connect with compassion.
Want more on Point of View? Learn the types and five tips for strengthening point of view here. Want some tips on going deeper with point of view?
Award-winning novelist Kathy Steffen teaches fiction writing and speaks at writing programs across the country. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, Between the Lines. Her books, FIRST THERE IS A RIVER, JASPER MOUNTAIN and THEATER OF ILLUSION are available online and at bookstores everywhere. Check out more at www.kathysteffen.com