How to Write Deep POV – Tip #4

Tip #4 in writing in deep POV is: Eliminate tags and attributions.  Tags and attributions are words and expressions that indicate that someone is speaking.  Common ones are she saidhe said, he replied, she shouted.  Like the words thought, wondered, noticed that we discussed in an earlier post, tags and attributions tend to distance the reader from the character. 

Instead of using tags and attributions, use beats.  What is a beat? A beat is defined by some as the smallest unit of writing. I define a beat as a sentence that reveals or shows an emotion while attributing dialogue to a particular character. 

Below are two examples of the same passage. In the first one, I have used an attribution to indicate the character’s anger. In the second example, I have used a beat that I have underlined for you.  In the first example, I am telling. In the second example, I am showing: 

“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Sandra said angrily. (Telling)  

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”  Sandra threw the book at him, barely missing his face. (Showing)

In the example above, I have replaced the expression she said angrily with a beat.  The beat is a sentence that shows Sandra doing something after she has spoken her words. The reader understands that Sandra spoke the preceding words.  Showing her in action after she speaks the words adds to her characterization and gives us a picture of the anger she is feeling.  

Next week, we’ll explore Tip #5 for writing in deep POV: Make your character’s emotions DO something.  See you then! 🙂      

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