Words that distance readers

In early April, I sent my manuscript to a fictional editor to help me polish the work prior to querying. I received her edited copy today.

Her advice is that I write in “Deep POV,” which I had first heard about two months ago (from her).

I’m learning about becoming a novelist as I go. I’ve done this deliberately, because this is how I learn best.

I’ll share everything I learn. I think I’ll have a lot to post this week as I work through my editor’s comments and changes.

I did know one thing going in — passive voice distances the reader. So luckily that one is checked off. I’m not going to delve into that much, because I had that down, but if you want to know more about it leave me a comment and add a post on passive construction.

The editor also commented on speech tags and beats. Speech tags on their own distance the reader. Action tags and internal tags pull the reader in. I’ll do posts on those later in the week when I have a better handle on them.

This post is about words that distance the reader. Here’s my understanding of this. Please feel free to correct me in comments if you think I haven’t quite gotten it.

There are words that pull the reader just a little bit out of the story, shifting their focus ever so slightly from the character to the narrator.

In Deep POV, the author fully embodies the character. The author shares only what the character senses, thinks, feels. Applying this approach, using certain terms shifts the reader out of the perspective. Examples of those are felt, looked, saw, heard, glanced, thought, wondered, knew, and made

Again, please jump in here if you think I’ve got this wrong.

The idea here is that when you go about your day, you don’t say in your head. “I wonder if I’ll get that job.”

You think, will I get the job? What happens if I don’t? God, I really need this.

Apparently, first person narration is also less deep than third person, so in my novel, I need to translate this over to third person, like this: She peered into her mug, her eyes on the swirling black liquid. She needed this job. Now more than ever.

If you don’t use a word in your internal dialogue, then, I’m learning, you shouldn’t use it as the narrator either (assuming you’re aiming for this deep POV approach).

I’ll be delving deep into my manuscript over the next week or two. I’ll share all the lessons I pick up along the way.

Sometime this week I’ll add a “Resources” page to this site with a list of websites I’ve found useful while on this journey that I’m compelled to traverse.

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