1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    omniscient POV

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tesoro, Dec 24, 2011.

    I'm thinking about my story and if it would work better in omniscient pov instead of the multiple third person limited that I'm using right now. And if I'm sometimes actually slipping into that POV without noticing... where's the line between them, really? to me they seem a little hard to distinguish sometime, but maybe I haven't understand the differences well enough? I can't even remember if I have read a book written like this...
    And if you write in it, does the same rule apply about "sticking to one POV per scene"? Or is it ok to include more than one POV as long as you avoid head-hopping? What are your thoughts on this pov? is it more suitable for a specific kind of story that others?
     
  2. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    omniscient is the "god" perspective aka the all knowing narrator that knows everything about every character and chooses to relay this info to the reader at his/her discretion. limited is from the character's perspective, so you can't write anything unless the character knows/experiences it.

    omniscient is not rhetorical in fiction, at least in my opinion. text books, which are non fiction, are written in omniscient. obviously this is because a text book is not meant to be written as a story. secondly, you would trust a text book written with this perspective, as it suggests the writers know everything about the subject, and you as the reader have to accept it as truth and fact.

    meanwhile, if you look at omniscient in fiction, it gives off extreme distrust. as a reader of a fiction, you are in a realm in which really anything can happen. having a narrator tell you things happened in this way and only this way, or in other words, describe and tell the story in one way that is mean to be unquestionable is not believable. it really brings up the case of the "unreliable narrator," a concept writers use for various effects such as surprise.

    If you want a rigid piece of fiction in which the all knowing narrator is never wrong.... well, do you?

    I read a book called last of the curlews by fred bodsworth. it's a canadian book. the author writes it in omniscient but with many non fictional qualities. he discusses the anatomy of the birds, their instinctive behavior, that they do not have emotion or rational thought processes etc. it is a work of fiction, but i read it as a work of non fiction. omniscient was very useful in this book because the author was making a point that humanity is instinctive just as other animals are, and he argued this by writing a work of fiction in which he described the bird through omniscient, as though they were not experiencing human-like emotions, when in reality, the situations they were in did indeed create emotion within them that we would attribute as human emotion. in conclusion, the omniscient played a large role in the overall scheme of things in his book. I think you should consider how badly you need omniscient instead of considering it because you keep drifting out of perspective.

    this won't be the case for all omniscient books, but I find that I experience this feeling I get after reading a text book when I read something in omniscient perspective.

    hope i helped.
     
  3. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I think of third person as being on a spectrum going from limited to omniscient, limited being as if a fly on the wall were watching what's happening, omniscient being as if a god who could see and know all were telling the story. In between these, you can have one character whose mind you can see into, or you can know all the character's general thoughts but not their inner feelings or histories, etc. Alice LaPlante explains this well in The Making of a Story.

    It's hard to know what perspective will work the best for each story. It depends on how much you want the reader to know. Some readers will accept third person omniscient that jumps from one character's head to another, while others consider it "cheating," because it feels fake or interrupts our suspension of disbelief.

    One thing I've found to work is, if you're going for third person omniscient, flow easily from the head of one character to another. You don't need to break it in sections, even, if you can make the transitions well. Staying in one character's head for five or six or seven pages, then all of a sudden jumping into another character's head, then going back to the first, etc, can interrupt flow and make your story less believable. I read a published novel that did this gratuitously, and while I liked the story itself, it was hard to get past the feeling that the author hadn't effectively done her job.
     
  4. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course not, but delete the word "rigid" and the answer is "quite possibly". And omniscient is the most flexible voice, so I don't know why you put "rigid" in there.
    I don't see that as being tied to omniscient, though. I'm reading Robin Yassin-Kassab's The Road from Damascus, and I feel that reads like a textbook but it's written (so far) from a single PoV. It's just telling the reader loads and loads of stuff that that one person knows.

    Omniscient PoV is pretty much the default story-telling mode. It's what a child will instinctively use when inventing a story. Because it's so innate, omniscient PoV has a great deal of power, and as I said it's the most flexible PoV because you can tell the reader anything. The danger is that it can seem ordinary (although I'm no fan of rejecting the ordinary just for the sake of it), and because it's so flexible it can be easy to get sloppy (and "head-hopping" is an example of sloppiness). Certainly I'd need to find as strong a reason for not using omniscient PoV as I would for using it.

    The most obvious kind of stories for which limited PoVs have a big advantage is mysteries, where a limited PoV gives the author an excellent reason for holding information back from the reader. Sagas are often written from an omniscient PoV because it gives a way of tying together remote events: "The army was still ten miles away when the King woke up."
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    thanks for your opinions. But, digitig: even if the narrator knows everything he doesn't need to reveal everything he knows, right? ;) I'm currently writing in third person limited and I think maybe it's better to continue since I'm not sure I could use this well enough. It was just a thought I got when planning a scene where there needed to be more than one viewpoint than one, and several switches, but in the end (at least for now) i've resolved with scene breaks instead. I'm going to study this viewpoint though. Is it common nowadays in different kind of fiction or is it considered slightly dated?
    another thing i wondered is this:
    If I slip in a thought or consideration that is not one of the characters in the narrative, like, a bystanders view on what happens, does it automatically turn the text into omniscient POV?
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Doesn't need to, no, but limited PoV makes it automatically seem natural. Saves work. :)
    A piece of advice I received from SF Author Simon Morden was never to worry about what's in fashion when it comes to writing, because by the time something has been written and published the fashions will have changed anyway.
     
  7. iabanon
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    iabanon Member

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    I agree with digitig on fashions. I ALWAYS completely ignore them. HATE them in fact. if you're worrying about fashions and fads you're not worrying about your story. a good story can be told any which way and will do well IF IT'S A GOOD STORY.
     
  8. iabanon
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    iabanon Member

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    .....................
     
  9. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Uh. Ew! No. I hope I'm misunderstanding what you are trying to say but ... eww. Textbooks, first of a lot, are not written in omniscient anything. They are textbooks. They merely convey information: how much is 2 + 2? How do you find a tangent? WHAT is a tangent? They do not depend upon an author's POV in presentation of the material. There can, in actuality, be no POV. Textbooks do not even have authors, they have only editors.

    The question of POV, then, can apply only to fiction. Memoirs or biographies other types of non-fiction are still limited to the range of POV one can present. The most one might achieve would be limited omniscient.

    Limited omniscient allows the god creator of the story to present events from more than one character, not necessarily divided by chapters as limited omniscient opens the opportunity to see things from one scene to the next from the perspective of one character and then another to give the reader a more rounded scope of events.

    An omniscient POV, different from limited omniscient, does allow for the god-author to know what each and every characters is doing at any given moment and show that to the reader. The problem with this approach is that it can get very tedious. No one really wants to know what everybody in the story is doing every minute. So rarely could I imagine anyone attempting this ploy. It is, in my opinion, doomed to failure. And, if the author is not revealing everything about everyone at every minute, then he is not utilizing fully omniscient POV but limited omniscient POV. After all, the author is, actually, the god of his/her story. The god-author does not tell everything at the very beginning of the story or there would be no story. No. The story god gives a little bit at a time until the end. It doesn't really matter which POV you are using.

    The question is presentation. How do you present the story and the information therein? That will be limited by whether you choose first person POV and can only reveal what your mc knows and sees; second person POV - used to its best in RPGs; third person POV - which tells the story about what he/she did from outside the tale compliments of a narrator. Thus allowing more information about things to which the "he"/"she" may not be privvy; limited omniscient POV - which gives even more liberty to the author to tell more of the story than the mc might have access to, or may get it too late.

    If you are wanting more liberty than third person, you are probably wanting to take a limited omniscient POV.
     
  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Quite right; it would be a ridiculous misuse of omniscient PoV.
    There I disagree. The example I gave earlier -- "The army was still ten miles away when the King woke up" -- is not "revealing everything about everyone at every minute" but it's still fully omniscient PoV. The omniscient narrator has access to what is happening to everyone at every minute, but the job of telling a story is in part the process of selecting from all that information.
     
  11. Ixloriana
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    Ixloriana Member

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    Isn't "limited omniscient" an oxymoron? I've heard it called "third-person subjective" -- where you can see into the minds of a few viewpoint characters, but are limited to an objective view of everyone else.

    Wikipedia has a really good article on point of view, which may or may not be helpful. Anyway, "omniscient" doesn't necessarily mean that the story is told by an all-knowing god who knows what everybody is doing and thinking at all times and must convey all of it. It's the point of view of the storyteller (in other words, you, the author!) who takes no part in the story, but knows everything that's going on in it. (You can think of the author as the creator-god of his story, though, sure. Mmm ego boost. :D) There is absolutely no reason why an omniscient narrator can't withhold information. That's just silly. If I forsake whatever choices I've made thus far about point of view and just tell you my story, I am perfectly capable of leaving things out until the last moment, or rearranging them to make them more dramatic. That's the advantage of having an omniscient point of view.

    If, on the other hand, you want to be really strict about the reader only being in the heads of Tom, Jane, and Rudolph, that is third-person subjective. Think of it like the story being told by a storyteller who has gotten all his information from those three characters. Again, there's no need to tell everything these characters know.

    These rules, of course, are meant to be bent. If a moment comes up where, for the sake of the story, you feel the need to write from the viewpoint of a character you're never going to use again, do it. If you have to drop some information to the reader that the character doesn't know yet, for the sake of suspense, do it! Don't feel restricted. As a wise pirate once said, "They're really more like guidelines."
     
  12. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you follow this sentence with "At least, that's what the advisors told him when he got out of bed." you can easily return to a very limited third-person perspective!! :)

    I never thought I'd see anyone else quote from SotMI!!! ;)
     
  13. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't put too many labels on my narrator. It's 3rd person that isn't radically limited or radically omniscient. IMO, it is what it is.
     
  14. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eloquent!
     
  15. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Off topic, but that really bugs me. Birds definitely have emotions - even fish have emotions! (Fear, for example, the most basic emotion in existence. Almost everything feels fear.) I hate when people assume animals can or can't do certain things instead of looking at the evidence. We need to stop portraying trying to make humans special - we're animals too, we're just very smart ones.
     
  16. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Off-off topic: Actually, I've read some articles on human vs chimp intelligence, and one of the conclusions was that we force one type of intelligence, while apes force another, and chimps were actually more succesfull in some tasks then human children. Has a lot to do with social behaviour, or so they day....
    :p
     

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