One of the big buzzwords of today’s writing advice is deep point of view. For the uninitated, it’s the idea of making everything about your point of view’s view. Write only what they notice and how they notice it. This can be done in either first person or third person. Either way it’s about immersing the reader in the narrative.
Now, despite my somewhat click-baity title, I don’t have big issues with it. If you’ve read my work, you know how much I enjoy to cut away everything to make it all about the point-of-view character. There is however one piece of advice that keeps gnawing at me, and it’s about what a point of view percieves.
My favourite way of describing used to be subtly adding it in, such as "they brushed a hand over their copper curls". I used that kind of description in a story that I sent to an anthology, and was told that I should work on the deep point of view, since I apparently either disliked it, or was misunderstanding it. It took me a long time to figure out what the issue was: they felt that it was out-of-character for a point of view to notice/think of the colour of their hair (this, obviously, wasn’t the only time I used similar). Similar arguments are that you shouldn’t introduce someone as "my best friend Sia", or notice the eye colour of their partner, because "the character wouldn’t notice that".
And that’s where I’ve been needing to figure out my thoughts, because I’ve been turning against that, and not only because it was criticism of what I was writing. It just did not at all mesh with me and the way I think.
I sit in the sofa right now. My feet are a bit warm and aching, and there’s a car rivving in the distance. As I write, that’s all I really notice, if I’m going to be honest about it. This does not make for a very exciting narrative, which is why we go beyond that when building atmosphere.
Okay, so what do I see around me? There’s my partner. He’s wearing a T-shirt we got at some conference a year ago, and his hair is short, since he cut it with the trimmers a while ago. We need new trimmers–the old ones died–and he really needs another haircut. From there, my mind moves into other memories, and thoughts, including that I’m hungry, maybe I should ask him if he could start the lentils now, or should we wait until after the show we’re watching? Exciting? Yeah, that’s one word for it. Rambling-and-incoherent is another one, and probably the more accurate one.
So, I don’t buy that I’m the only one who meets someone I know and immediately get a whole history of memories. Don’t tell me to not write "her best friend Sia" or "my copper curls" or "their partners silky, brown skin" with the argument that people don’t think that way.
With that out of the way, I’m actually going to go back to the beginning and state that I think that you should probably be careful with that kind of descriptions. Keep them limited, because while it’s not likely to be a breach of the character’s point-of-view, there is a risk that it would still draw the reader out of the point of view. After all, where was your mind after my rambling thoughts above?
The goal isn’t to be completely faithful to the character while ignoring the reader, it’s to keep the reader interested while you stay as close to the character as you can. Allow the reader to step into the character, and to experience things almost as if they were the character.
That is what truly captivating fiction is about: immersion.