Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tactile POVs

Once again I am coining a new term for use on my blog.  Tactile POVs emphasize the nervous system reactions of the viewpoint character.  This works best in romance, but can excel in any story in which the protagonist emotes very heavily through physical feeling.

In tactile POVs, you'll see phrases like "his heart beat against his chest," "cold sweat slid down her neck," "his mouth went dry," etc.  It's very much within the viewpoint character's body.  You still get all the usual narration, with the addition of the physical aspects of the emotions the viewpoint character is feeling.  Rather than using the "tell" "he fell into embarrassment," you can use the "show" "his face went hot."

Tactile POVs are almost always 3rd-limited or 1st-person.  The other POVs can get away with "his face turned red" or "she flushed" because the narration is outside of the protagonist's body.  In limited or 1st you're not supposed to state a detail that isn't visible to the POV character, such as their face.  You can have a nice emotional punch by still describing the detail, but doing it in a tactile way.

I've been using tactile POVs a good bit lately.  I love how they can pull readers into the viewpoint character's head and create sympathy quickly by making the reader feel what they feel in a tactile way.  There are many ways to exploit tactile POVs for your advantage, although not every story needs to be tactile, nor should they be.  I recommend playing around with this POV variant and see what you think.  It's a tool in my toolbox that I really enjoy using.


  1. When used correctly, I love reading stories that incorporate this type of description. However, it's something you have to be careful to avoid cliches when using. Sometimes I feel like the phrases you mentioned above get overused and while it's probably better to use those phrases than to 'tell', tactile POV is better when the author describes something in a more original way, or at least tries to. Thanks for sharing, Patrick!

    1. Yeah, it's not an every-paragraph sort of thing. I use it in my flash because in such a tight space you have to build the emotion and reader-protagonist connection quickly, but I do my best to stay away from melodrama. However, I don't use tactile POVs in a lot of my stories. They only work some of the time. For a novel I'd probably only use it in 1st-person and even then only in very high-tension scenes (with very careful attention to avoiding cliches).

      Thanks for dropping by!