Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Best Writing Advice I've Gotten Lately

Writers, all of us, like to give advice.  Whether we've been published a thousand times or are still seeking that elusive first credit, we feel like we know how the business works and, more often than not, we'll share our little nuggets of wisdom, whether you want it from us or not.  We firmly affix our monocles and stroke our chins while dispensing sage-like words like candy from a Pez dispenser.  And, like everything else, it's all subjective.  What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.

Of course, I'm over-generalizing.  Not all of us are like that.  Some of us prefer to listen, to weigh the opinions of those who came before, and to make our own choices.  So when the subject of "writing advice" comes up, most writers give a collective groan, roll their eyes, and brace for impact.  And most of the time, it's crap.  Anything other than "put your ass in the chair and finish the damned novel" is purely one person's opinion and should be taken with a  grain of salt.

But today, I read a rather brilliant blog post by Chuck Wendig on his blog about his own twenty-five rules for being a successful writer.  Among the gems in his post (and you should read his name) is one simple phrase.  "Don't write what you know, know what you write."

How many times have we been told "Write what you know?" followed by smug giggling and the person offering this trite little chestnut scampers away to watch your meltdown from a safe vantage point?  How could that possibly work?  Let's see...  Most people, when they began writing, had all the life experience of an angst-ridden teenager, with no real experience about anything.  If they stuck to writing what they knew, we'd be even more inundated with hyper-emo stories about teenage break-ups and shitty teachers and what it's like to be picked on in high-school than we already are.  If you only write what you know, your writing is limited to your own personal experience.  Really, though important to you, I'm pretty certain that no one here has the kind of life that makes for a good novel.  So what's the solution?

"Know what you write."  Brilliant.  It's not a statement that your experiences are unimportant.  They are what makes you who you are.  But instead, it's an encouragement to go and have new experiences.  I'm pretty certain Thomas Harris is neither an FBI agent nor a serial killer.  But, when doing research for Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs, he tagged along through FBI training so he could understand what those people went through.  Before I wrote a gunplay scene, I'd never fired a handgun.  Never.  I know, right?  I'm from Texas, and never fired a hand-gun.  But I went out and had a new experience.  I went to a shooting range (taken by my good friend and fellow writer Nikki Hopeman and her fantastic husband Ward [who, incidentally, I consider my brother-from-a-different-mother]) and fired off a few shots, just to see what it felt like, smelled like, tasted like.  I wanted to know what it was like to ride a horse (I know...Again, WTF?  Texas, right?) so I found someone with a horse, saddled up, and went riding.  Yes, I looked ridiculous, but I learned.

The point here is that nothing should limit you.  "Write what you know" is a limiting statement.  Bowing before this holy little commandment does nothing but stunt your growth creatively.  Write what you know, and you'll never know anything else.  Know what you write, however, and you've just opened up a world of new experiences, all in the name of writing a better story.

And so, today, a challenge.  Today, find something you've always wanted to do, but haven't.  Find something that looks interesting.  Eat something you've never eaten before.  Even if you hate it, it's an experience upon which you can build.  Here are some examples that are easy and worth every moment of the experience you can gain:

  • Go to a gun range.  Squeeze off a few rounds.  
  • Take a walk in the woods.  Sit and listen to the sounds around you.
  • Dance in the rain. 
  • Skinny dip.
  • Eat something that looks or sounds repugnant.  Try Haggis.
  • Go to a nursing home and talk to an old person. 
  • Guys, in the privacy of your own home, put on makeup. 
  • Walk as quick as you can for as long as you can.
  • Try to break into your own house without damaging anything.
  • Do a ride-along with a cop.
Every one of the things above have hidden things that you'll never know about until you try them.  And every one of them is often misrepresented by writers who haven't done them.  Go out and have those new experiences.  Grow from them.  Learn from them.  Write about them.  Then come back here and tell us what they were and what you learned.   


Monday, August 27, 2012

Consequences: Super Powers and Magic

Enhanced strength, laser vision, electric blasts, magic...  In the realm of horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and any other speculative genre, we all create characters who are "special."  Whether their power is overt or subtle, natural or man-made, inherent or learned, it is important to remember that such abilities should not be a "catch-all."  The purpose of this entry is to address the use of super powers through either tech or magic, nature or nurture, and to show how to effectively use such abilities in your writing.

First, a super hero is only as interesting as his weaknesses. Wait, what?  Yes, you read that correctly. Think about it.  If Superman had no weaknesses, where would be the interest?  Where would be the drama?  If there's no chance he could lose, why should we care?  It becomes boring.  We know he's going to win because he always does.  The Big Blue Boyscout just zooms in and saves the day.


But then we introduce Kryptonite.  Then we introduce limitations on his powers.  Then we introduce Doomsday, a bad guy who can physically tear Superman apart, and suddenly we have real drama.  There's the possibility that he could fail, and that's why we keep reading.  Think about every hero worth his tights and you'll realize that every one of them has a flaw, an chink in their armor.  So when we write them, we need to give them weaknesses, and exploit them, to let the reader latch hold.  Give them something to invest in emotionally, and then they're hooked.

Most people think of how awesome it would be to have super powers.  But we, as writers, need to look beyond the immediate gratification.  We need to climb deeper into our characters' lives to see what the real consequences of having such abilities would be.  For example:

  • Super Strength - Implies super density, and therefore increased weight.  Would this person be able to ride in an airplane if he was dense and heavy enough to lift it?  Probably not.  Would he be able to take public transit?  How about sit in a chair?  Or lay in a bed?  Or have sex with someone?  Would a one-night tryst become a case of manslaughter?  Could he even live in a world designed for normal people?  
  • Super Speed - Einstien, that lovable follically challenged genius, stated that the faster something moves, the faster time passes for it.  I'm paraphrasing, of course, but think of the consequences of super speed in those terms.  A run around the block, a year of your life goes away.  Even if you could manage to keep your clothes from bursting into flames every time you took a jog, could you keep your skin from tearing off from wind sheer?  And let's not get into the whole sex thing again.  Oy. 
  • Flight - Okay, we've all wanted to fly at one time or another.  But think about what that means.  Assuming, for a moment, that you could actually breathe in high altitudes (there comes a point where you can't, by the way), what's to stop you from getting killed when you hit something like a bird?  Ever seen one go through a windshield?  Now picture it with your character's head.  Powerlines, airplanes, lightning...The skies are littered with potentially lethal obstacles.  And then there's the matter of navigation.  Unless your character is lame and follows the highways when he flies, how's he going to navigate?  
  • Invulnerability - Everyone thinks they'd like to be invulnerable.  Bullet-proof, knife-proof, everything-else-proof.  The implication there is that, no matter what, your character suffers no damage and no pain.  If that's the case, if a speeding bullet cannot upset the nerve receptors in your skin, then what can?  Certainly not the touch of another human.  And therein lies the tragedy.  Invulnerability would make your character one of the loneliest creatures on the planet.  
  • Immortality - Who really wants to live forever?  Not me.  Stand around and watch everyone you've ever cared for wither and die?  Watch cities crumble to ruin around you?  Realize that you're the last and only of your kind left?  That's a horror story.
The point here is that for every power you can name, there's a downside, and writers need to explore them to give that layer to your characters.  

"But wait," you say.  "Hold on just a minute.  What about magic?  My character can do anything through magic!  Magic has no rules!"  Not true.  No matter what version of "magic" your character uses, you're still trying to do one thing:  Keep your reader interested.  Again, if your character can do whatever he or she wants with the wave of a wand, what's to keep the reader interested?  It's the limitations that make the story interesting, and the consequences that make our limitations.  

Magic is, in simplistic terms, the manipulation of energy.  Energy, according to our follically challenged physicist up there, can neither be created, nor destroyed.  It can only change form.  So if your character is throwing energy around, where's it coming from?  A body can only create so much before it needs to be replenished.  Pulling energy out of surrounding things has its own consequences, and a body can only handle so much energy before it gets damaged.  That's why we can get electrocuted.  So what kinds of consequences are we talking about?  What kind of limitations? 

First, magic is not a catch-all.  If you're stuck (or your character is), you shouldn't get him out by giving a flippant wave of your hand and screaming "he does magic and it's better now!"  Magic should be specific, and it should cost.  In the Stanley Cooper Chronicles, my character, Maggie, uses magic in her daily life.  She throws around a serious amount of energy, and it costs her.  She draws the majority of her energy from within her own body, so she has to replenish her energies by eating.  Just like we do when we exercise.  Any character that tries to channel too much energy through their body gets burned.    Draw the energy from around your character, and there should be a reaction from the environment.  Does he draw it from the power lines?  Maybe the lights around him go dim because that means less energy getting to them.  Pulls it from the plants?  Maybe the plants turn brown and die because he's feeding off their life source.  What if he draws power from a higher being?  Do you think that higher being will give power out of the kindness of his heart?  Nope.  Chances are, he's going to want something in return.  And think about this:  Physiologically, energy passing through a body creates a sort of "high."  How addictive would it be?  How many times will the user want to keep using it?  How will it affect him physically?  Emotionally?  Spiritually?

In writing about magic, theres a blog entry by Mette Ivie Harrison in which several questions are asked about your book's system of magic.  I recommend reading the questions and putting some serious thought to them, as well as those listed above. 

The point of all of this is that having characters with special powers and abilities are fine, but you must make the powers finite.  You must give them limitations.  You must give them consequences.  Without them, there's no tension, no reason to turn the page.  And that's what you're really hoping for, isn't it?  That the reader will turn the page? 


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Setting As Character

With all this talk of characterization, building better characters, and other such stuff, I thought it fair to look at the other side of the coin.  We all know that a good character is one to whom the reader can relate, but think of how certain stories would be without the one character who, though essentially silent, speaks volumes more than any character could.  I'm talking about places like King's Overlook Hotel, Matheson's Belasco House, Jackson's Hill House.  The way certain places are depicted places them in the center of the stage, and gives them a great deal of character without ever having them utter a word.  But how?  That's the point.

Let's take, for example, the classic trope of the haunted house.  To the casual passer-by, it's an eyesore, a collection of wood and termites more fit for the wrecking ball than human inhabitant.  But let's see how we can make it into a character by equating much of its structure into human terms.

  • paint = skin
  • windows = eyes
  • door = mouth
  • roof = top of the head
  • broken boards = teeth
So instead of a house with faded and chipped paint, we talk about its sallow, pock-marked skin, it's vacant eyes that stared out over the street.  We pass not through the door, but through its mouth and down its gullet.  If I were to say, in reference to the house, its poor balding top, you might immediately think that a few shingles were missing from the roof, which is exactly what I'd want you to think.  You can further the description through trees, overgrown front yards, and other things by likening them to other human characteristics.

But that's just description.  What about the house itself?  What makes it a character?  

Once again, we think of it in human terms.  We think of colors, yes, and smells, but more, we need to refer to it in terms that give it life.  We need for the reader to think of it as a living entity that reacts to the things that happen within its walls.  I don't mean the house has to literally come to life and try to eat people (though I've read a few stories and seen a few movies where such things do happen).  So how?  When I think of a haunted house, I think of several different types.  I think of the insidious kind that lulls the occupants into a false sense of security and shows no outward signs of being haunted, the overt craggy stereotype, or the type that can't escape its history.  The first type, I liken to an angry teenager.  Don't ask me why, but that's what comes to my mind.  The second, I think of as an angry old man.  The third, a shamed and embarrassed woman.  Since that's how I see them, that's also how I refer to them when I write about them. 

Take, for example, a draft through the house.  In the case of the first, I'd describe it in the same way I'd describe the angry exhalation of a petulant teenager.  A heavy sigh, perhaps, or a forced breath.  In the case of the second, I'd call it a wheeze, a rasp or even a snort.  In the case of the third, a gasp,perhaps.  Maybe a breath or a murmur or a whisper.  Any way I could possibly take that simple draft and turn it into something more meaningful, the breath of the house, creates a way to show the house is alive, and the words used to define that breath tells us more about the house's character.  Take the following two examples:

The floorboards creaked as he stepped on them.
The house groaned as it took his weight.

Both sentences mean the same thing.  Old house, noisy boards, overweight guy.  But in the first example, that's all we have.  Noisy boards.  In the second, the reader gets the image of the house protesting against his weight.  We get the image of the house maybe making a face as he steps on its floor.  Also, we get the idea that that the house isn't too happy to be trod upon by said fat guy. 

The example above is only a tiny part of personifying locations to make them into effective characters.  The same can be done with buildings, forests, even towns.  Even countries can be given a personality through description.  Don't believe me?  Ever heard of the Sleeping Bear that is Russia?  By using human terms (by the way, it's called "personification") to describe what happens inside a setting, we give that setting its own personality and create a character from it.  We stop writing about a world where buildings are made of brick and mortar, and begin living in a world where buildings welcome people inside, where houses stare out into streets, where hallways choke their inhabitants, and where hotels eat souls.  

Have a question?  Something to say?  Leave a comment!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Building Effective Characters: Dialogue

Write dialogue realistically, not how people speak.

One of the biggest problems new writers have when building effective characters is in the area of dialogue.  It either sounds forced, or doesn't fit the character, or the reader has a hard time distinguishing one character from another, or it just doesn't sound... right.  How do we create dialogue that sounds like normal people talk, and that really puts the character in the "realistic" column?  

First off, we don't write the way people talk.  We write realistically in that we obey a few simple guidelines that people follow, but we don't write the way people actually speak.  When people speak, they fill those little empty spots with an endless barrage of grunts, "ums," "y'knows" and a thousand other little vocal tics.  We speak in accents, which, when written out, make the language seem foreign.  We, in short, massacre the language (whatever language it is...Don't think I'm speaking only about English here), and to write it out would not come across well.  So, to write good dialogue, we do not write how people speak.  We do, however, write realistically.  But just what does that mean?  

Well, for starters, we must draw upon all the work we did on the character biography to figure out how that person would speak, then we need to adhere to a few guidelines.  Keep in mind, these work for me and may not work for you.  Find your own way that works.  
  • Colloquialisms - These are things that are said with geographic reference that most people outside a given area won't understand.  For example:  "That guy's drunker than Cooter Brown."  Now, unless you met the right Mister Brown, you wouldn't know just how drunk he was.  We can infer his state of inebriation to be quite advanced, but it's just not something that someone outside Mister Brown's area of influence would even think to say.  Similarly, "Possum on a gum bush!" is not something commonly heard outside of the deep south, or a Dukes of Hazard marathon.  These things give insight to the character.
  • Regionalisms - Often thought of as the same as the colloquialism, but very different.  In the south, folks say "y'all."  Up north, folks say "yinz" or "youse guys."  Same sentiment, but made different by where the character grew up.  Regionalisms range from the simple to the bizarre.  In the south, any form of carbonated beverage is a "coke."  We will then narrow the field of choice by stating what kind of coke (often by saying "a coke-coke").  Up north, however, it's a "soda" or a "pop."  Down south, we say "garage."  Up north, the same structure is a "car hole."  Things get even more bizarre when dealing with other countries, some of which have entire sub-cultures that seem to be dedicated to confusing people.  Cockney, for example, is a version of English that is characterized by substituting that relate to another word that rhymes with the noun meant.  So instead of saying "my wife," the speaker substitutes "trouble and strife" for "wife," then shortens the whole thing to just "trouble," so instead the speaker says he's going to go "tell my trouble."  
  • Dialect - When we write, it's easy to want to get carried away with certain dialects.  I'll take the easiest target, the deep south.  Theah, ah swe-ah folks trah to tawk in thu most genteel mannah, but they nevuh seem tu ghet it rhit.  (There, I swear, folks try to talk in the most genteel manner, but they never seem to get it right.)  You can see the problem.  So how can we throw dialogue in that has the same flavor?  By choosing the words that we affect, and letting the audience fill in the blanks.  In the above example, I might only use "swe-ah" instead of "swear" for the whole sentence, but it gets the point across that the speaker is using a dialect.  The same thing works with other dialects.  "Dere" instead of "there,""Noocyuler" instead of "nuclear," and even "wessles" instead of "vessels."  They are used sparingly, but effectively.  
  • Contractions - Unless your character is an android (like Lt. Commander Data), he will, most likely, use contractions.  Why?  Because we all do, and we all are essentially lazy creatures.  We want to say what we want to say in the smallest time possible.  "You can not be serious" becomes "you can't be serious."  "Why did you say that?" becomes "Why'd you say that?" Chances are, your character will enjoy using contractions as much as you do, and you love them so much that you often don't even realize you're using them. 
  • Education Level - There is a big difference between the way a college graduate speaks and the vocalizations of, say, a grade-school drop out.  Make sure your character's dialogue matches your character. 
  • Experience Level - People with more experience in certain areas tend to use terms that are more "insider" words.  The term for this is "jargon," but most folks like to refer to it as "geek-speak" or "nerd-eese."  Everyone has something they're a nerd about.  You may know everything there is to know about fly-fishing, and I wouldn't know the first term to even make a decent example, so you'll just have to go with me on this one.  
The bottom line here is that every decision you made about your character determines how they speak, how they walk, how they interact with other characters.  Do they react with hostility when being scrutinized?  Is that right for the character?  Decisions should be based on the character's upbringing, his education, and even his social class.  

A few other things that beginning writers do in their dialogue that needs to be addressed:
  • Contracted Sentences and Words - Which do you say in your daily life?  "Yes, I would like to go to lunch with you," or "Yeah, let's eat?"  Again, we are fairly lazy creatures who will break down our spoken sentences to bare minimum, given the chance.  Once something is said, or even inferred and understood, we pretty much take it as "known" and don't say it again. 
  • Naming Protocols - We, by and large, don't call each other by name.  We don't.  Go listen to people talking, and count how many times you can figure out people's names from the conversation.  Chances are, unless that person's name is "man" or "dude," you're not going to get it.  If your characters are constantly calling each other by name, they should either do it for a purpose, or you're doing something wrong.  
  • Overexplaining - When real people talk, they usually don't try to reiterate things that are, or should be, already known.  If we do in our every day life, we get people saying things like "I'm not stupid, you know," or "don't talk down to me" or "well duuuuuuh!"  It's a common trap to try to explain plot points through dialogue in an attempt to cleverly let the reader in on what's going on.  And it doesn't work.  Phrases such as "as you know" or "like I said" are dead give-aways that you're about to drop an information dump on your readers.  Worse, it doesn't sound the way a real person talks. 
Of course, everything above is opinion.  They are techniques that work for me and me alone.  But here's my suggestion:  Go out to a park, a mall, a restaurant, and eavesdrop.  I know, you're not supposed to because it isn't nice (and could make for some awkward moments if you're discovered), but listen to the conversations people have.  Then realize that, based only on what you've heard, a little five-minute snippet, those people have depth of character.  And that's what you're trying to achieve. 


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Building Effective Characters - Part I: The Bio

Harry Dresden, Jack Torrence, Arthur Dent, The Doctor, Norman Bates...They are all iconic and memorable characters that have stood, and will stand, the test of time.  Theirs are the eyes through which we see the story, the ears through which we hear, the hearts through which we feel.  They are our proxy, our relation.  They are us, or they are so completely unlike us that they are fascinating.  The story is king, it is true, but one thing that every story needs is a good, memorable character or three.  For the next few weeks, we'll be discussing characters and how you as a writer can make them more than just words on a page.  You can make them breathe, jump, bow, cry, laugh and scream.  You can make them, for lack of a better term, real.  So let's jump in and start by discussing what I mean when I say characters.

First, you have the different types of characters:  Primary, secondary, and tertiary.  Some might call them stars, co-stars, and supporting players.  Bit parts, day players, and even walk-ons exist in the writing world.  It's up to you, as the writer, to figure out where each character belongs, what his or her role is, and weave the fabric of the scene in such a way that it become unnoticeable for your reader.  Here, then, are the types of characters we'll be dealing with. 
  • Primary  - This character is the star of the show, the "Dresden" in The Dresden Files, the "Stanley Cooper" in the Stanley Cooper Chronicles.  He is the person for whom the story happens.  To be clear, "primary" doesn't necessarily mean "only."  There is such a thing as an ensemble cast of several, all of whom are "primaries."  But for the purposes of this essay, let's concentrate on the model of one primary. 
  • Secondary - This is the "supporting player," the friend, the sidekick, the person who has significance in the life of the primary.  That significance could be that they hate each other with a burning passion, or they could love each other.  They could be drinking buddies.  But we, as the readers, don't see a whole lot of that.  We see the slices of life that the primary allows us to see.  The secondary is not the main focus of the story, though he will be affected by the goings on.  
  • Tertiary - These are the fellows that are window dressing, passers by on the street.  Which is not to say they are unimportant.  Their roles are as vital as anyone else's, but the focus isn't on them.  Their job is to continue to put the focus on the primary and, to a lesser extent, the secondaries.  While they may be played as one-dimensional, they should still be fully realized, at least in the author's mind.  
Now that we know with whom we are dealing, let's focus on our primary.  

When you think of people (not characters, mind you, people), you realize that you're dealing with the summation of all that person's experiences, neuroses, quirks, and warts and that big bundle of gobbeldy-gook is what we call a "person."  You, for example, are the summation of every experience you've ever had, good or bad.  Those experiences allow you to make choices, avoid high temperatures, choose the green jelly-beans over the black ones, and generally function in your life.  The same holds true for your character.  It is for this reason that I'm a big fan of creating a full background dossier for your character.  Don't worry, it's not something the whole world will see.  It's for your eyes only.  But it will help you figure out how your character will react in various situations.  And, let's face it, you're going to be putting them into some situations, otherwise you don't have a story, right?  

Biographical information is the ten-pound hammer in your tool box when it comes to characterization.  Think hard about your own life.  What made you into what you are?  What influenced how you react?  How you wear your hair?  What your favorite color is?  This is what we're talking about here.  What follows are a few things that you may want to consider when dealing with your character's biography:
  • Home Town - determines accent, political affiliation, attitudes toward other people, climate, etc.  Believe it or not, your home town never leaves you.  
  • Siblings? - There's a big difference in behavior between only children, middle children, oldest and youngest.  
  • Parents - Mom and dad?  Mom and mom?  Dad and other dad?  Divorced?  Dead parent?  
  • Religion - Do they have one?  What is it?  How devout are they?  
  • Education Level - A college grad and a grade-school dropout are not going to speak or even think in the same way.  
  • Traumatic Events - Think about it...Every traumatic event you've had (and, if you're reading this, you've lived through) has an effect on decisions you make now.  The same holds true for your character.  
  • Physical Information - Height, weight, gender, hair color, eye color, skin tone...They all influence how your character is treated by the rest of your world, and therefore how your character will react.  
  • Style - Does he have tattoos?  Piercings?  Is he a nerd or a hipster?  Does he have a handicap?  
  • Socio-Economic Situation - Does he have a job?  If so, doing what?  If not, what does he do for money?  Is he upper class?  Lower class?  Does he rent or own?  Does he have a car?  Does he have to take the bus? 
  • Quirks - Neuroses, phobias, fears, tics, you name it, these are things that make the character more human, more identifiable. 
There are hundreds of other little factors to consider, and the there is no way to create an exhaustive list.  Nor is there a need to.  As I said, the reader will, likely, not even see your huge dossier on your character, but they should be able to infer some of the information by the clues you give through the decisions your characters make.  "I don't like water," says the character.  Ah, says the reader.  I wonder what traumatic event caused that?  You don't have to answer, but it's enough to know there was such an event.  Everything about your character, from the cloth of his shirt to the type of music he likes, is a clue into his psyche, and a step toward making the character breathe and live for the reader.  Think about who your favorite characters are, and why they are your favorites.  And then see how you can make your own characters breathe and live. 

Next time:  DIALOGUE

Thursday, August 2, 2012

POV: The Deeper, the Better

One of the more common problems writers have is with their point of view, or POV for short.  With so many to choose from, it is little wonder that some people feel lost when trying to navigate the deep ocean that is POV.  First, second, third person, present tense, past tense, future tense...  Where's a person to go and how does it all come together?  Relax.  It's not really that difficult.  There are things to remember, sure, but that's part of learning your craft, right?  Let's start by tackling who, exactly, is speaking by examining the different types of POV.

  • First Person - Often used in noir, but also used in almost every other kind of story-telling, this is where the narrator is the character, and uses the term "I" to tell the story.  "I remember the day I died," says the narrator.  Everything that happens in this story must now be told from the point of view of the narrator, and so we, the audience, get a skewed view of the universe through the character's eyes. 
  • Second Person - Not often used, but I've seen it a time or three.  The narrator uses the term "you" to directly address the reader, thereby making the reader an active character in the story.  "You walk down the street."  By addressing the reader so, you are putting the reader squarely in the story, yes, but you're also limiting the story to the reader's own experience.  
  • Third Person - The most common form of narration is the kind in which the author addresses the character as "he," "she" or, in some cases, "it."  "He walked down the street."  However, because nothing can ever be simple, there are different types of third-person narrative.  
    • Omniscient - This is the type in which the narrator can see everything and into everyone's head.  He is the butler, who must be correct, but who is also all powerful and knowing.  He may say "Billy wanted the ball, but Jane didn't want to give it to him," thereby providing us with insight two two characters simultaneously.
    • Limited - Much like the omniscient variety, the narrator can now see in the characters' heads, but only one at a time.  Usually, the narration will switch from one character's perspective to another at section breaks or even for the span of chapters.  This method allows us to bond with particular characters, to see what's going on in their heads in relationship with other characters, without having to muck around in other heads for a bit.  
So, now that we've defined the different types of narration, what's this business about having a deeper POV?  Well, to put it simply, you want the reader hooked in your story, yes?  You want people to feel that they're standing there beside the reader.  You want them to have a vested interest in how things work out.  You want you reader know...actually READ the rest of the page, and turn to the next one.  So what does POV have to do with such a concept?  


The deeper the POV, the deeper down the rabbit hole the reader gets pulled.  Ever sat in the room with a master story-teller?  He weaves his tale of mayhem and intrigue and keeps the audience rapt, held close in the sweaty palm of his hand.  Compare to someone who is not so adept at story telling.  People yawn, look away, check watches...  It's sad, really.  But how does the master story-teller keep people so entranced?  One way is to create a vivid image with his words, to allow people to feel that any moment, the skeletal fingers of the story-teller's monster may reach over the back of the chair and grab them.  He does it by putting the audience in the story.  And how, I hear you ask?  One way is through the use of filters.  

Rather, through the lack of them.

A filter is, in the world of photography, something that is used to diffuse light, darken a lens, change the hue, or any more of a dozen things.  In the world of writing, filters are much the same thing, only they diffuse the entire scene.  They take the reader and hold him at arms length and let him come no closer to the action.  Let's take the following two sentences in third-person limited, for example:

"Jason could see black clouds gathering on the horizon."
"Black clouds gathered on the horizon"

In the first instance, we are given the filter "Jason could see."  We are in third person limited, which tells us that we're already in the head of the character, "Jason."  So why do we need to be told "he could see?"  Why not just state what he saw as fact?  In the second sentence, we are shown what needs to be seen, but we're shown it as if we, ourselves, are seeing it firsthand without filters.  

"He could hear bells ringing in the distance, kicked up by the maelstrom."
"Bells rang in the distance, kicked up by the maelstrom."

Here is the same example, only applied to the sense of hearing.  You can apply this technique to any form of sensory input.  Instead of saying "the sand felt coarse," just say "the coarse sand."  Instead of saying "the tea tasted bitter," just say "the bitter tea."  Here are a few filters that you should try to avoid.  This is not a comprehensive list, but a good starting place. 
  • He could see
  • He could smell
  • He could taste
  • He could feel
Look for those in your own writing.  Weed them out, and you'll be one step closer to capturing your reader's imagination, and dragging him down the rabbit hole with you.