1. Yami

    Yami New Member

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    Need help with understanding 3rd person omniscient

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Yami, Mar 1, 2017.

    Hi!
    So, I’m writing a story told in third person omniscient, but I’m having a difficult time writing it properly. I gave it to my editor and she said that I’m not writing it in third person omniscient. But before I hired her, I gave it to my creative English teacher to get some suggestions. She told me to do the opposite of what my editor said to fix. So, I’ll just lay it out here with an example of what my editor and teacher commented on.

    Character A is a male with black hair.
    Character B is a male with blonde hair.

    These two characters don’t know each other and they walk pass each other. But I do know them by their names cause I’m the narrator and author. Also, let’s say that I’m currently following Character A’s POV.

    SO…

    According to my creative English teacher, it should be written as such:
    Character A walks pass a man with blonde hair.
    She said that since I’m writing from the POV of Character A, I shouldn’t write Character B’s name because A doesn't know him.

    BUT, according to my editor, it should be written as such:
    Character A walks pass Character B.
    She said that it doesn’t matter that Character A and B don’t know each other and that I’m following Character A’s perceptive because I’m writing it in third person omniscient. I have a god-like power. I’m should be writing their thoughts and emotions through my words and not theirs.

    I originally had like the editor’s suggestion, but after I gave it my teacher, I changed it. Then after I gave it to my editor and I changed again.

    So, which one is correct?


    ALSO, would the answer change if Characters A and B are in different scenes? So, essentially these two characters are not sharing the same scene.
    So, I have a scene where one character identifies another character by scent, but he doesn’t know him by his name and he hasn’t even met him. This character has a large smell radius so he can smell that character who’s far away and not in the scene.
    So, this would be the two versions while still using Character A (who smells the scent) and B (who is being smelled) and in the POV of Character A:
    Character A smells the scent of a male. (Because hormones are also detected by Character A).
    OR
    Character A smells the scent of Character B.

    Which is correct according to this scenario? Or is the same as the pervious example?
     
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    It sounds to me like your English teacher is trying to teach you third person limited, not third person omniscient.

    But I am wondering why you want to use third person omniscient? It's pretty deeply unfashionable right now, and I believe that it's harder to do well. Do you need it?
     
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  3. Yami

    Yami New Member

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    Well, the story I'm writing is more plot driven than character driven. It would be hard to flesh out all the information the readers need if I write it through first person or third person limited. I switch between scenes and POV's to try to flesh out this information.
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Neither is incorrect. It is purely a stylistic choice, though as @ChickenFreak says omniscient POV isn't as common as limited (though you still see it).
     
  5. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Why does everyone say omniscient is so uncommon? I feel like I see it all over the place.
     
  6. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Do you have examples? Maybe when it's done well I just miss it, but I feel as if it's been forever since I saw it in a book written in the past fifty years or so.
     
  7. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Anything modern that I read. Max Barry's Company, for example.
     
  8. Yami

    Yami New Member

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    Oh, okay. So, I guess I just have to decide which one works best.
     
  9. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Basically, third person limited is a little bit more 'personal' than third person omniscient. In the limited one, the reader gets into the head and heart of only one character in a scene or chapter ...or even a whole book. This means the reader will see things from their point of view ONLY—which is very similar to what happens in real life. You CAN shift to another POV in a different scene or chapter in limited, but you keep the reader in only one head at a time.

    In the omniscient version, the reader is in on everybody's thoughts and feelings all the time. This isn't exactly natural, or what happens in real life, so it can feel a bit strange. It keeps the reader at a distance, as if they are watching everything from above. I think it's much harder to convey emotion with omniscient. Yes, you can show what everybody's doing and let us know what everybody's thinking ...but if a whole bunch of characters experience different emotions at one time, you're going to struggle to get your reader to identify with any of them very closely.

    There isn't any right or wrong way to decide, but your decisions will affect how your readers react to your story. So play around with it until it feels right.
     
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  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Yep, that's omniscient. And in the Amazon preview, it's very engaging. There is so far a fair bit of distance from the characters, but the writing sparkles enough that that's OK.

    And it reminds me that Robert Barnard, one of my favorite authors, does (I think?) sometimes write in a similarly distant, similarly clever, omniscient. Those aren't my favorite of his books, but they are omniscient and they do work.

    So I hold by my assertion that doing omniscient well is more difficult, but I see that I'm wrong in thinking that it's flat-out rare.
     
  11. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The bastards hung me in the spring of '25.... Contributor

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    It's relatively rare compared to, say, 19th Century literature, but you still find it here or there. Technically any bit of narrative summary in any book (excluding 1st person) is considered omniscient, and some authors milk that more than others. I've considered omniscient to mean there is a narrator that is a distinct character disconnected from the plot by either time or divinity. Almost like the literary equivalent of an old man telling a story before a fire. You used to see this all the time with Dickens and Tolstoy where they'd actually stop the story to address the reader directly. It's not the best definition in the world, but if I can identify a godlike narrator that knows and sees all I consider it omniscient.
     
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  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not seeing why this would be true. I'm not disagreeing in any vehement way, but I don't see it that way. If the narrative summary includes only information known to the viewpoint character, why would it be called omniscient?

    (Edited to correct "information only known" to "only information known".)
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2017
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  13. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I agree with this. When I include a chunk of narrative summary, I still make sure I'm in the POV of whatever POV character I've been using for that part of the book.
     
  14. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The bastards hung me in the spring of '25.... Contributor

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    Nor would I defend it vehemently. The way I saw it explained was that the speeding of time and circumstances in a block of summary implies a pullback and some form of "god" perspective that allows events to be perceived in a selective fashion. One of those things that stuck with me from an editing book somewhere.
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I firmly disagree, but I realize that I should schedule my debate with the author of the editing book, not with you. :)
     
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  16. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The bastards hung me in the spring of '25.... Contributor

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    Haha... I hear you.
     
  17. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    ......... . X. .
     

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