A Cautionary Tale When Writing in Deep POV

I love reading books in Deep POV and so when I set out to hone my writing, I was gobbling up Deep POV advice. One of the main tenets of Deep POV is to cut out filter words like “she saw,” “she heard,” etc., because in Deep POV you’re writing AS the character, and so of course that’s who noticed, smelled and heard these things.

Well, here’s an embarrassing side effect of being too overzealous that I thought I’d share with you so that when you go through your manuscript and excise these guys you’ll not make the mistake I made.

To walk you through my mistake, here’s the sentences I had during a revision sweep this past summer:

On the verge of suggesting she arise, he saw the dratted door knob turn again

and:

While in this undesirable position on the floor, he heard a board creak in the hallway.

So, here’s me thinking “easy peasey” and I reworked these to:

On the verge of suggesting she arise, he saw the dratted door knob turned again

and:

While in this undesirable position on the floor, he heard a board creaked in the hallway.

All cool, right? Yay, I’d mastered one of the tenets of Deep POV! Woohoo!

Ah, no.

What’s wrong with those sentences? Luckily, a sharp-eyed beta reader found these for me. You see it, too. Yep, it’s a DANGLING PARTICIPLE.

Of course there’s no way the door knob had become sentient and was about to ask the heroine to arise, or that a board was in an awkward position. When my beta reader first pointed them out to me, I stared at them going “how in the world did I even construct these sentences? I know better!” and then it hit me: I’d just taken out the filter words and called it a day.

So I thought I’d share this with you so that you can wield Deep POV principles more wisely than I.

Have you ever used a new writing technique willy nilly and only later realized the consequences? Have you ever accidentally constructed some really funny dangling participles?

Milestone: This was my 100th post!

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16 Comments

  1. Jennifer Lowery~Author

     /  February 22, 2012

    Fantastic post!! Funny you should ask that because one of my crit partners just found a dangling participle in my work! Deep POV is a skill and not easily learned, I’ve discovered, but I’m determined to master it!
    Thanks for sharing :)

    Reply
    • Thanks! It really is a skill and one I’m still trying to master. When I first applied myself to it, there were things I just couldn’t get through my skull but I kept sticking to it. Taking a class in it really helped… What was your dangling participle? Was it funny?

      Reply
  2. Of course, had it been a Disney movie, talking door knobs are ten a penny.

    Congrats on your 100th.

    Reply
  3. At least edits like these make for some entertainment later (once you get over the facepalm moment). :)

    Congrats on your 100th post!

    Reply
  4. I love dangling participles. I don’t write them much, except intentionally once in a great while, but I love them.

    I’m more prone to bad puns. And I mean really bad puns. Though again I have a tendency to do that deliberately. I’m so bad. :D

    Reply
  5. Ha, that is funny. They become sentient objects!

    On a different note. I had to re-introduce a filter word last night. It just did not FEEL right being so deep.

    Standing in front of a pile of bodies, David’s stomach knotted. His breath clung to the back of his throat. He clenched his fingers as if he clung to the edge of a crumbling cliff.

    – to –

    Standing in front of a pile of bodies, David’s stomach knotted. His breath clung to the back of his throat. He felt as if he hung on the edge of a crumbling cliff.

    The first version was too artificial and made me trip while reading it. Was he actually on the edge of a crumbling cliff? No, he was standing in front of a pile of bodies. So this was one of those situations where putting the filter word “felt” back makes sense. You don’t want to DRAW the reader’s attention to your trying too hard to be in deep POV.

    Reply
    • I wonder if the difference is that your ‘felt’ was introducing a metaphor, instead of actually describing what the character was touching? I think those are the times I’ve left it in too…

      Reply
  6. This really is a great lesson. I write in first person, but I “watch out” for filter words. I have caught myself doing this. I had long forgotten the technical term dangling participle, but I knew those sentences were wrong. LOL

    Reply
  7. I went on a “that/was” hunt and got rather carried away.
    It’s difficult to taunt “that was my point!” if you take half the sentence out… lol

    Reply
    • I remember the ‘was’ hunt. Sometimes my brain hurt from just trying to find another way… But when I did it was worth it, the voice/prose came out stronger…

      Reply
  8. I laughed out loud at the second example… If the floor is creaking it would be a compromising position for the board… Great article!

    Reply

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