Guest Post—Frank Ball “Expressing Thought in Deep Point of View”
Twenty years ago, italics was a popular means to indicate unspoken thoughts. That’s still acceptable, but we now have another approach that can be more engaging.
Writing in “deep point of view” doesn’t require italics.
In this style, the point-of-view character’s thoughts are brought into the narrative, so italics are no longer necessary. Many acquisition editors now prefer a deep point of view expressed without the need for italics to indicate a character’s thoughts.
From blind author Tom Sullivan’s personal experience:
Tommy Sullivan is spending the night alone in a house thought to be haunted. Notice the need for italics to show what he is thinking.
As I rose from the floor, I was aware of the wetness of mold and mildew sticking to my pants leg and my hands. Slime, I thought. Am I being slimed?
The smell was musty and old, filled with decay and what I perceived as death. My imagination ran wild. Death, I thought. People have been murdered in this house, stabbed and thrown from the balustrade. And now, here I was—a little boy, a little blind boy in a big, scary place. Am I alone—or are there spirits here?
A slow, creepy, crawly, creaking sound. Oh crap, what was that? It came from all around me. Then it stopped. Oh God, there it is again.
Here’s how we might rewrite those words in deep point of view:
As I rose from the floor, the wetness of mold and mildew sticking to my pants leg and my hands felt like slime. Was I being slimed?
The smell was musty and old, filled with decay—like rotting flesh. My imagination ran wild. Death. People had been murdered in this house, stabbed and thrown over the railing. And now, here I was—a little boy, a little blind boy in a big, scary place. Was I alone—or were there spirits here?
A slow, creepy, crawly, creaking sound. Oh crap, what was that? The sound came from all around me. Then it stopped. Oh God, there it was again.
Here’s the reasoning behind some of the changes:
- Instead of “slime, I thought,” we have “the wetness sticking to my pants leg and my hands felt like slime.”
- “Am I being slimed?” changes to the past-tense question: “Was I being slimed?”
- “Decay and what I perceived as death” is a telling statement that might be better shown with “decay—like rotting flesh.”
- “Death” no longer needs to be in italics.
- “People have been murdered …” moves to past tense expression of Tommy’s thoughts: “People had been murdered …”
- “Balustrade” is too fancy a word for an eleven-year-old. He would imagine people being thrown over the “railing.”
- “Am I alone—or are there spirits here?” needs to change to simple past tense, without the italics: “Was I alone—or were there spirits here?”
- Again, in the last paragraph, we eliminate the italics and use past tense.
For ten years, Frank Ball directed North Texas Christian Writers to help members improve their writing and storytelling skills. In 2011, he founded Story Help Groups and joined the Roaring Writers ministry seven years later to encourage and equip all Christians to tell their life-changing stories. He has taught at writer’s conferences and churches across the U.S. and Canada. Besides writing his own books, he does ghostwriting, copy editing, and graphic design to help others publish high-quality books. As Pastor of Biblical Research and Writing for three years, he wrote sermons, teaching materials, and hundreds of devotions. He coaches writers, writes blogs, and is a panelist on The Writers’ View. His first book Eyewitness: The Life of Christ Told in One Story is a compilation of biblical information on the life of Christ in a chronological story that reads like a novel.