Friday, 27 June 2014

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A writer's epiphany - A Carpet of Purple Flowers

Third Person Omniscient 


Okay, so today I analysed my writing style. Which was brought on by feedback left by beta readers and a particular editor(a beta reader), Dominique. She mentioned how well I used third person omniscient. So, off I went to research. (Yup, I'm not great on craft terminology, it's something that I'm working on, promise). ;o)

I would like to share with you.

  Third Person Omniscient

For example, there are stories where the POV character changes with each scene, but each scene only shows a single POV character. This would mean the story is in Third Person Multiple. But every so often a scene would pop up where there are two POV characters or the narrator telling the reader what the characters in the scene are thinking—and that's when we'd call it Omniscient POV.

The Omniscient POV has many advantages over Third Person Limited. Perhaps the greatest advantage is that Omniscient allows the author to give more information to the reader in a shorter length of time.

In Third Person Limited we'd need to be "shown" what the characters are like, as opposed to Third Person Omniscient, where the narrator can simply "tell" us. Omniscient POV benefits from a larger scope than Limited and allows the author to say more things about the characters' situations than the Limited POV can.

It turns out that most fiction (particularly novels) written in the past century is written in Third Person Limited. Though Omniscient can do more with less, Limited is more common because Omniscient sacrifices what's perhaps the most important thing in fiction: It doesn't allow the reader to get close to and sympathize with the characters and the situations they find themselves in. This is because the distance created by seeing everything from the Omniscient narrator's point of view instead of the character's is too great.

Third Person Omniscient naturally distances the reader from the characters and the situations because there's an "otherworldly" voice telling the story. The voice knows everything that's going on, as well as—in the case of subjective narrators—the fact that they sometimes comment on the events in the story. An Omniscient narrator can even address a reader directly.

The distance between the reader and the characters when a story is written with an Objective narrator is even greater than Subjective. In Objective, the narrator doesn't "judge" the characters for the reader. However, since the reader only sees what the characters say and do and not what they think, it becomes like watching a film.

You can see the characters on screen, you can see who they are and what they're doing, but the screen is always between you and the characters. You can never step into their shoes and see the story from their vantage point, or understand what they're thinking at any given moment.

It isn't impossible to overcome the distance between reader and character when writing in Omniscient. That's most obvious when reading traditional fairy tales, which are usually written from an Omniscient point of view. But readers will most often sympathize with the characters and the situations as concepts, rather than with the characters as people.

In short, getting the reader to sympathize with the characters in the story is part of the art of the Omniscient perspective. Sometimes it can require creative solutions, but don't be discouraged if you run in to trouble. It takes both practice and a strong understanding of the relationship between the narrator, the characters, and the reader.

Pros and Cons
Strengths of using Omniscient POV:
  • The narrator has godlike knowledge, allowing the reader to know everything going on at any time.
  • It doesn't limit the author to a single POV character in a scene.
  • It allows the author to provide information in a more natural way.
  • It can provide smoother transition into action.

Weaknesses of using Omniscient POV:
  • It's more presentational in nature, resulting in distance from the characters.
  • Emotions are harder to convey to the reader.
  • It tends to be more "Tell-y" (which can lead to massive info-dumps if you aren't careful).
  • The narrator's godlike knowledge means that tension can be dissipated, possibly resulting in a dull-feeling story.

Omniscient POV is not the same thing as head-hopping; those who do it well are masters of the craft and work hard at it. Fiction written in Omniscient Point of View (OPOV) is more along the lines of what we might call Narrative Fiction. It can be any kind of story, but it’s narrated rather than seen/experienced through Deep Point of View (DPOV)—what we now see in most genre fiction. In OPOV, the author is basically narrating the story and can dip into any character’s thoughts at will. OPOV is the style we see most often in classic literature: Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens.

What separates OPOV from head-hopping is the fact that the omniscient narrator maintains a distance from the characters, even though he occasionally will let the reader in on what the character is thinking—but, again, in a style that’s more told than shown.

Authors experienced with using this POV are actually narrating what’s going on inside the character’s head. It isn’t the character’s direct thoughts. Authors who write in a head-hopping style jump from one character’s thoughts to another without any transition between them, sometimes from sentence to sentence, sometimes within the same long sentence.

Omniscient point of view is also referred to as alternating point of view,because the story sometimes alternates between characters. The focal character, protagonist, antagonist, or some other character's thoughts are revealed through the narrator. The reader learns the events of the narrative through the perceptions of the chosen character.

The Harry Potter series is told in third person limited for much of the seven novels, but deviates to omniscient in that it switches the limited view to other characters from time to time, rather than only the protagonist. However, like the A Song of Ice and Fire series and the books by George RR Martin, a switch of viewpoint is done only at chapter boundaries, instead of scene change.

The disadvantage of this mode is that it can create more distance between the audience and the story, and that—when used in conjunction with a sweeping, epic "cast-of-thousands" story—characterization is more limited, which can reduce the reader's identification with or attachment to the characters. A classic example of both the advantages and disadvantages of this mode is J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

The main advantage of this mode is that it is eminently suited to telling huge, sweeping, epic stories, and/or complicated stories involving numerous characters.


The Difference Between Omniscient POV and Head Hopping

I completely resonate with this style of writing. Perhaps, due to the way I see my initial story play out as a film in my head - in scenes. When you watch a film, there are different camera viewpoints, adds more depth as visually explaining the information. I write on camera view, the scene/character that I need to tell the story and move plot on. This makes a lot of sense to me, as I am an extremely visual person, the artist in me :o) Explains a lot - out the box.
Third Person Omniscient Authors

Phillip Pullman: His Dark Materials
JR Tolkien: Lord of the Rings
CS Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis intrudes as the narrator in his Narnia Series when he writes, "For it is a very silly thing indeed to lock oneself in a wardrobe.” Third person omniscient allows the author to divulge what is happening to several characters even if they are separated by time or location, and also to show their internal thoughts and feelings. It is a popular choice for high fantasy or epic novels, which often have intricate plots and require lots of stories to be interwoven. 
JK Rowling: Harry Potter Series
Jostein Gaarder: Sophie’s World.
Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina

Below is Dominique's critique (Beta Reader)
Dominique, possesses a four year degree in creative writing, and also has two specialty degrees in 'Writing'. USA

I was crusing along, reading about Bea, then BAM! There's this Karian fella with his friends. There were characters running everywhere. This was a wake-up call for me as a reader and I sat up and started to pay some real attention at this point. With a lot of books, I think this sort of change would have overwhelmed me, but the author's writing is so skilled as to make this change a kind of electric spark that leaps through her writing.
I was very, very amazed at how the author used the third person omniscient viewpoint so naturally. I can honestly say I’ve never read a book where this technique was very effective. Usually I like to stay in one viewpoint, as a reader. But with this novel, I think it gave credit to the grand scope of the story. Bea might be the main character, but the story is about so much more than just her. It’s about Vororbla, something that intertwines all souls together in a way – so I considered it very symbolic to use the omniscient viewpoint.

More 'Critique' can be found HERE
Seriously, I am so relieved that I'm not actually doing anything 'wrong', just different :o)
It can be so difficult to see through your own work. To know whether you have what it takes, (I still don't know, but I'm trying). My wonderful beta readers have been such an invaluable aid to my own understanding of how I write, and now, everything is much clearer, thanks to them. It really helps knowing my style. I just started writing for the need to get that story out of my head, with no technical/craft knowledge, because I didn't intend to seek publishing. The story has grown so much, and people actually enjoyed the tale, so I thought, let's see what happens if I put my story 'out there'. It's a work in progress, lol.

Thank you so much for sharing my journey,
love and light