1. Fiel
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    Fiel Member

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    Omnipotent Narrative - Pros and Cons

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Fiel, Sep 1, 2009.

    Omniscient Narrative - Pros and Cons

    I'm currently writing a novel. I'm a complete amateur, so I went through lots of advice from authors.
    There were some about not using omniscient narrative, of not head hopping and all, yet I realized my first draft was full of it (especially when the conversation involved many important characters).

    I'd like the opinions from fellow writers here.

    What's the advantage & disadvantage of using omniscient narration in novel writing?
    Is there any rules/recommendation of how to use it efficiently?

    Edit: It's omniscient, not omnipotent, my bad. Thanks for correcting Cogito.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I believe you mean omniscient, not omnipotent.

    An omniscient viewpoint is impersonal, and tends to reveal too much to the reader, in my experience.
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the better question would be why would you select Omnicient POV as opposed to third person limited or first person.

    The POV selected should fit the story and how the author believes it is best told to the reader.

    Many writers just starting out use it becase it seems easier to tell the story, hopping from charcater's head to character's head within a scene. Unless used craftily and with care, the use of omnicient can fall quite flat. Of course that can be said of the other POVs as well.

    If you hope to use omnicient, find several novels (by different authors) that you have read and enjoyed which are written in that POV. Study how the authors employed the POV to relay the story to the reader, and then apply the various aspects and techniques to your own writing.

    Good luck.

    Terry
     
  4. Fiel
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    Fiel Member

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    I guess that's the case for me. :eek:

    Thanks for the suggestion Terry. My friend suggests Anna Karenina. I'll be sure to do my homework. :D
     
  5. Snap
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    In my experience, the problem with an omniscient narrator is not only that they're impersonal (because they are that), but they are also completely unbiased. In my experience, you need a flawed narrator to tell a story so that it holds attention. With an omniscient narrator, there is so much "then this happened then that happened then so-and-so shot him" that it loses my attention. It's better to have a narrator that will excite the reader. That will get mad when the villain pops up at the worst possible time, and will lose hope when it appears all hope is lost. An omniscient narrator is too stoic, in my opinion.

    Anyway, just my $.02 :)
     
  6. RIPPA MATE
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    RIPPA MATE Contributing Member

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    Impersonalness is pretty much the nail on the head. Limited third is so much more involving of character. However it depends on what effect you wish to create. Humour writing is an example of where omniscient works well.
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Omniscient narration, in my opinion, only works well if the narrator is a character themselves, so they hae character, a personality, and this is revealed through their omnipresent narration.
    Also, the term "omniscient" throws up a huge range of problems...like why does the narrator reveal only the things he reveals, why doesn't he tell us things in a straight forward way, what is his agenda in telling the story, etc.
     
  8. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    An omniscient narrative is a valid tool like any other, conventionally I assume it works best for sweeping epics, but having it intermittently in other genres can really help to flesh out characters and their motivations. It's really dependent on taste and the cleverness of its use. Just a thought.
     
  9. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I like a limited view in all fiction. I want to know when the narrator is one person or the other. Flitting back in forth is distracting. Not only that, but how many people tell a story like that?

    --- I went to the store today, the clerk pondered the paradoxes of reality while he watched me approach. The woman behind me thought my butt looked like her ex-husband’s as she said “ten items or less, can’t you read, boy?”
     
  10. Sophronia
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    Sophronia Member

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    I've used omniscient narrative at a very climatic and dramatic parts of the story where an event occurred that all of the characters and people could see what was happening and I wrote about their views on it.

    Otherwise I use this kind of narrative very rarely. Very important character-to-character relations and reactions that add to their depth and the plot itself I have added a tidbit on how each character feels.

    In most cases I work with one character's POV and only their POV.
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I recommend learning the pros and cons of all the POV before writing in them.

    When it comes to omniscient POV, I think there are two main kinds. One is where you limit yourself to only information any character in that scene could know. When you do head hop, you have transition smoothly.

    The other type is when you share information that none of the characters could know.

    One of the best ways to train the mind to write in third person limited is to write in first person. Remember when you are writing in first person, you can only write things the MC can know at the time. She can't know what's behind her unless she turns around or has magical powers or eyes behind her head.

    An easy mistake to make to make, but I don't really consider it a mistake if it's in third person and serves a purpose, is to write something like the following.

    Mike dug his cleats in hard, lurched violently to the right, twisted his hips instictively, and darted for the goal post forty yards ahead across the green field. He streaked toward the goal. Bits of turf flew out behind his pounding feet.

    Did you catch it? It starts off from Mike's POV, then it pulls back from an onlookers POV because only an onlooker can see the bits of turf flying off his cleats.

    It could be easily fixed.

    He pressed toward the goal, feeling chunks of turf flying from his pounding feet.

    Again, though, I don't see a problem with zooming out like that, so long as you don't zoom out or in to far at a time. Authors do it all the time when writing in third person limited, but not so much in first person.
     
  12. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I disagree, but its obviously a personal thing. I don't see any reason for a limited point of view to always be that tight. The point of limited narrative is that the focalisation of the narrative is limited to that character - we're following their thoughts, watching their actions, looking at them and through them. Its not necessarily the same as "first person in thrid person".
    Not that it counts as an omniscient narrative, unless you can account for the way the narrator tells the story. Some critics have attempted to find a new name for that mode, but none has caught on yet (but most agree that omniscience is a misleading/troubling title with awkward implications).
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I never said it always had to be that tight. I said the opposite.
     
  14. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You said it had to "pull back" from a limited perspective in order to see something behind him. To me, it wouldn't imply a shift in limited perspective at all.
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Aaron, well, you must pull back to show dirt flying off his cleats unless you write that he felt the dirt flying off. But I said that I don't believe you can't pull back. I think as long as the transition is smooth, not confusing, it is fine.

    An example of pulling back to quickly might be the following.

    She sat on the bench, eating popcorn. A huge demon like a dark cloud ripped through the city, tearing buildings apart as if he were a tornado.

    See what I mean?

    But if . . .

    She sat on the bench, eat popcorn, when a roar in the distance started her. She stood, spun around. A huge demon like a dark cloud ripped through the city, tearing buildings apart as if he were a tornado.

    Or.

    The amazement park was filled with happy people, riding rides, playing games, and eating cotton candy. The ferris wheel lifted couples high enough to see all of the small town. Only feet from the ferris wheel, a man with metal milk jugs behind him said, "Knock 'em down. Take your chances." A line of people stood in front of the hot-dog stand, and to the right of that, by the cotton candy machine, a girl sat on a bench, eating her popcorn.

    But if you zoomed in too quickly, it might be jarring or confusing.

    If you jumped from the Ferris wheel revealing the whole town, to the girl sitting on the bench . . .

    I might not have made myself clear enough the first time. Sorry about that.
     
  16. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Always remember, though: If you have an idea of what you want the reader to know, then write accordingly.
    Omniscient writing can be just as limited as you want it, and just as revealing as you desire.
    That is why I always feel that -- that there is no reason to limit yourself, necessarily.

    If you don't want to tell anyone something, then don't. If you do, then do. You don't necessarily have to say, "O.K., I'm in limited third-person, so I can't tell anyone about this and this"; conversely, you need not think, "I'm using an omniscient narrative; therefore, I must reveal certain information."

    I good writer should know when and when not to do something, regardless of the perspective he is using.

    My two cents.
     
  17. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like Omniscient because of this. I can reveal what I want, when I want. and I can also focus most of it on the characters emotions, actions, and thoughts. While also being able to describe whats happening over in that creek 3,000 miles away(assuming it has some relevance to the story) or I can see the events of the story from a different perspective, and focusing the chapter on that character.
     
  18. rkn
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    Omniscience in writing expects no room for mistakes most of the time. If a narrator is omniscient then gaps in logic have to be watched for much more closely. This is a literal "Omnipotent Observer" in the world you are creating. But that's something writers have to face in any style.
     
  19. Fiel
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    Fiel Member

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    Thanks for your thought guys. Some of the posts truly broadened my perspective. Thanks again. :)
     

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