The Shallow End of Point of View (let’s build the TENSION)

POV (point of view) is something that is discussed A LOT when it comes to writing/stories. Because it IS that important. You gotta make sure you pick the right POV(s). You gotta make sure it’s in voice of the character. If you go for deep POV, you gotta make sure you’re doing that right by really getting into the head of the character, getting the reader to feel like they are the character.

I feel like most novels (it’s a very vague and un-statistical “most”) are in deep POV. You’re in the character’s head. The other one used a lot (mostly in older literature) is when you’re in the narrator’s head. The story is being told to you.

But there is a third one. A very elusive one.

I don’t know what to call it, but it’s when you’re not in the character’s head and there is no narrator. You feel like you’re watching the story through a glass window, seeing the events unfold.

Now, I cannot think of a book that does this (Though I KNOW there is. Like I can feel it.), BUT there is a movie.

The China Syndrome.

A news reporter (Jane Fonda) and her cameraman (Michael Douglas) are unintentional witnesses to a SCRAM incident, an emergency core shutdown procedure at a nuclear power plant in California. The crew prevents a catastrophe, but the plant supervisor (Jack Lemmon) begins to suspect the plant is in violation of safety standards, and tries desperately to bring it to the attention of the public, fearing that another SCRAM incident will produce an atomic disaster.


There are a lot of good things about this movie, and the biggest thing is that it creates a steady feeling of foreboding. Something bad is going to happen. Something is wrong. Everything is not as alright as it seems.

One of the ways the movie does this, is there’s no music. Music in movies gives us cues. Something creepy is happening, something happy, something romantic, etc. But with no music, it leaves the viewer wondering. Is something bad going to happen? Is this normal? Should we feel like everything is going well? Is everything going wrong?

The other thing that creates the foreboding is that the movie never gets deep into the characters. At all. There’s this feeling of watching something happen through a glass (like I was saying before). You feel like an observer, and in a way that’s scarier. You’re not sure what the characters are thinking or feeling. You’re not confident of what is normal/not normal in their world.

Now, the plot is still driven by the characters, though we’re not in deep POV or really any POV. Actually, you could say that the POV is YOURS. Your reading/watching the story through your own view. (that…just got really trippy.)

I feel like this works best with thriller/horror/suspense or whatever. Maybe something dystopian.

BECAUSE IT BUILDS TENSION. One of the ways you build tension is to not show something, right? Like you want to keep the monster hidden from the reader for as long as possible. Leaving out your characters “thoughts” or “feelings” is another one of those hidden things that makes the reader feel unsure. A good kind of unsure. Makes them feel like they don’t know everything and because of that they HAVE to read more.

I do want to add that I can see this failing disastrously if done wrong. There still has to be other things that keep the reader reading, since it is typically the characters that draw the reader in.

Oookaaaayyy. That’s enough POV discussion for the day.

What POV do you like to write in? Does this shallow POV makes sense to you? Have you read any books/seen any movies like it?

3 responses to “The Shallow End of Point of View (let’s build the TENSION)”

  1. POV is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I typically write in first person, and deep first person is really popular right now, but for my current novel, I’m experimenting with third person, (kind of like the shallow POV you mentioned). It’s been challenging at times, but for now I’m finding it very interesting. We’ll see how it turns out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to say I LOVE writing in third person. The tricky thing is that it can be as personal as first, but it’s just finding out how to work that in (and resisting the urge to head hop, which I always do in first drafts XD)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yeah, good point! I feel like I have a lot to learn with this draft, but I’m excited. :)

        Liked by 1 person

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