Whose Point Of View Is It, Anyway? by @EdenBaylee
An author friend and I have been writing stories together for years, and our collaborations are usually seamless. We agree on so much, but there is one thing we don't agree on.
I’m all for having a different point of view, but what if we have a different point of view about … point of view, also known as PoV?
Establishing point of view for a story isn’t easy since there are many to choose from: first person, second person, third person limited, and third person omniscient.
Point of view filters everything in a story. There are pros and cons for each choice. Where I differ from my friend is in the use of third person omniscient.
He likes it, and I don’t. Simple as that.
We’ve managed to write some fabulous stories together, so this difference may be a matter of personal preference and nothing more. Regardless, I thought it'd be interesting to explore the omniscient PoV more closely.
First of all, what is it?
An omniscient narrator is one that is all-knowing. Its perspective is often compared to a god’s-eye view because the PoV can show anything it wants the reader to see, dipping into characters’ heads as needed to reveal what’s happening in the story at any given time. This includes information the characters may not be aware of themselves.
There are definitely benefits to telling a story using the omniscient voice.
An omniscient voice isn’t limited to what the main character knows. Because the narrator is literally all-knowing, there is much more flexibility when it comes to telling your story. You can tell readers anything they need to know to move the plot forward even if the character doesn’t know about it yet.
If you’re writing a story with action moving quickly between scenes, an omniscient narrator can do this much faster than limited third-person PoV. No need for awkward explanations or clumsily jumping between characters.
Get to know multiple characters
You can enter the minds of multiple characters and explore their emotions and relationships. Even if you choose to focus on one main character, you’re not limited by what that one character can see or do at any one time.
If you’re telling a story with lots of characters that span many years and cover distant lands, then omniscient PoV is the way to go. It’s popular in the science fiction and fantasy genres, where a lot of world building is required—think The Lord of the Rings series.
What are the drawbacks to omniscient PoV?
Distance from the characters
The omniscient PoV naturally distances the reader from the characters because an “otherworldly” voice is telling the story. Information is always filtered through this narrator, and we are simply watching from afar.
Telling vs. showing
The omniscient narrator tends toward telling action and emotion rather than showing it. It’s not an immersive experience for the reader.
Too much telling
When you know everything, it’s easy to tell far too much, which can lead to massive and boring info dumps. Worse yet, too much telling can dissipate conflict and remove that page-turning tension.
Tendency to head-hop
Omniscient can be difficult to write without descending into “head-hopping.” Though this PoV is able to share different characters’ thoughts and feelings, it must be done through a consistent and uniform narrative voice, and not in any of the unique and personal voices of the characters. Head-hopping occurs when the narrative jumps from one character’s voice to another without a break in between.
Third person omniscient is probably the oldest narrative form of recorded storytelling. It was used by Homer and Shakespeare, and is ingrained in the mythology of many societies. If a writer wants to create a “Once upon a time” type of story, then it's the PoV to use.
In the end though, what's important is you choose the right PoV for your story and stick with it.
How about you? Do you write with an omniscient narrator?
Please feel free to share, I'd love to hear from you!