1. Carl Montgomery
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    Carl Montgomery New Member

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    Character Thoughts in 3rd Omniscient

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Carl Montgomery, Mar 31, 2014.

    Hi, everyone.

    I am starting a novel in the 3rd person omniscient point of view, something I have never attempted until now, and I am having a few issues. I read the sticky at the top of this board explaining about the proper and improper uses of italics, especially regarding the thoughts of characters. So my question is, when the voice of the narrator is not the voice of the main character (or any of the other characters, since I switch characters at chapter breaks), what is the best method to reveal the thoughts? I know you can use phrases like "he realized" or "he thought," etc, but what if we wanted to use rhetorical questions like "Why wouldn't he just leave her alone?" Would this be okay, as long as I make it clear before that these are the thoughts of the character and not the narrator? I just don't want to mess this up when I am so early in the writing and have to go back and make the changes later.

    Thanks!
    Carl
     
  2. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Hi Carl,

    This is a good and fair question. Omni. is a funny thing because many people find it detached, as if you can never get into the characters's heads directly. Actually you can. The thing about omni. is that it allows writers to seep into more than one character's head in the same scene. The thing about an omni narrator is that he has full access to all knowledge, all the characters thoughts, all the action, on- and off-camera. The danger here is that you run the risk of shocking the reader by "head-hopping," which is when you dip into multiple heads entirely too quickly and frequently.

    Here's an example of head hopping. Notice how this whole moment is unfocused and disorienting. You just wish you could stick with one character for a moment. Avoid this. :p
    As far as thoughts go, if you aren't going to go full omni (i.e. switching characters within scenes) then you don't run the risk of head hopping. So you can seep into characters in the same way you would if you were doing close third In this case, you can show the thoughts in the same way, using italics or building it right into the narrative. This is a matter of objectivity or subjectivity. The thing to remember is that it always has to be clear whose thoughts we are getting at any given moment

    If you want a fuller explanation of third omni and how it differs from limited, I recommend this article, which goes into good detail about it:
    http://www.scribophile.com/academy/using-third-person-omniscient-pov
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2014
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, that should be fine, as long as you've clearly been in that character's point of view. A random sample paragraph:

    Joe collapsed into the booth, and grinned as the red-haired waitress headed over with a Dr. Pepper. The advantages of being a regular. Unless you want to ask the red-haired waitress out. If that goes badly, then you're out in the cold looking for a new perfect burger joint.

    Edited to add: Hmm. On one hand, I realize that what I'm saying is more relevant for third person limited. On the other hand, if you're switching characters at chapter breaks, it sounds like you are writing in third person limited, you're just changing viewpoint characters.

    Hm.
     
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  4. Carl Montgomery
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    Carl Montgomery New Member

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    @ChickenFreak Thanks for the tip. But, it's not so much the third person limited with multiple POV because I reveal information that the characters do not have access to.
     
  5. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I am kind of confused by your question, but if I understand any of it at all, my answer would be yes. In third person omnipotent, the narrator knows everything that is going on, including what is in each character's head. The problem is just how you word things. For example you wouldn't want to use pronouns to start your statement, but instead the actual character's name. Take for example.

    "Joe often wondered why women didn't like him, many people had told him that he wasn't ugly."

    "Joe wasn't an ugly guy. He often asked himself why women didn't like him."
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's still fine. I added such information and expanded my example, and am now eyeing it and thinking it's all legal, if a bit head-hoppingish.

    Joe collapsed into the booth, and grinned as the red-haired waitress headed over with a Dr. Pepper. The advantages of being a regular. Unless you want to ask the red-haired waitress out. If that goes badly, then you're out in the cold looking for a new perfect burger joint.

    The red-haired waitress, also known as Jane, returned the smile. Encouragingly. But encouragement failed once again, and she made her way back behind the counter. Joe did call for a lot of encouraging--she'd been trying, and failing, since Halloween. Well, except for that near-incident under the mistletoe on Christmas Eve. They'd almost converged there, but then Mr. Lapham had stopped her to demand to know whether the fries were cooked in peanut oil, because he thought he was getting a sniffle and hadn't they heard of allergies? Self-important old hypochondriac. She could have killed him.

    A lot of people felt that way about Mr. Lapham. And at that very moment, as Joe took his first sip of fragrant fizz and Jane watched him in the mirror, one of them was doing something about it.
     

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