1. Bogca

    Bogca New Member

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    Question about 3rd person omniscient

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Bogca, Jul 21, 2020.

    Hello everyone!

    I have never written anything in 3rd person omniscient, but since I want to write a fantasy story, I decided to use 3rd person omniscient. The thing is, I did so much research about this, it still got me nowhere, but confused me even more.

    What I don't understand is, how I should write the feelings/thoughts of each character in the same scene. I have the plot outlined and everything.

    There is a scene, where 4 characters are discussing something but all 4 are quite important in the story. So I don't know, how I should write this. Wouldn't it be head-hopping if I wrote all 4 characters' feelings/thoughts in that one scene? Or should I stick to one character in one scene? And in the next scene the other character?

    Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong because there might be something I misunderstood about the 3rd person omniscient.
     
  2. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    Dwelling on the thoughts and feelings of four characters in a single conversation may make the account fairly long and possibly tedious.

    Why do you want to describe the thoughts and feelings of the characters? Are these needed to make their statements seem plausible to the reader? If the statements don't seem plausible to the other characters, you could have them ask questions to provoke explanations that wold reveal their thoughts and feelings. Or you could have the characters pre-emptively telling their thoughts and feelings to justify what they say. You could have each character ponder their situation later and give a fuller explanation then.
     
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  3. Lazaares

    Lazaares Senior Member

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    Echoing the above comment - omniscient means a possibility, not a requirement to portray all emotions. If it's got little bearing on the story, omit it. If it can be shown instead of told, do so. These principles still apply.
     
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  4. Bogca

    Bogca New Member

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    Thanks for the reply.

    Not necessary all 4 but at least 2.

    So, should I write it like that?

    1. paragraph: Celestia talks
    2. paragraph: her feelings/thoughts
    3. paragraph: King talks
    4. paragraph: his feelings/thoughts
    and so on.

    Would that be right? Imo, this wouldn't head-hopping.
     
  5. Lazaares

    Lazaares Senior Member

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    What emotions / feelings / thoughts do you wish to portray? Perhaps they can be portrayed through dialogue and by describing how they talk.
     
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  6. Bogca

    Bogca New Member

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    I haven't written this yet but if there were feelings/thoughts that I can't portray through dialogue, would that be right what I just wrote above?

    That was only kind of an example.
     
  7. Lazaares

    Lazaares Senior Member

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    A last resort, I'd say. I would first try to portray them through dialogue. Second, I would try and describe various characters' reactions, gestures, expressions and body language as they talk. I would only delve into thoughts / actual emotions as the third option.

    Bear in mind, however, that I'm a writer with background in roleplaying which means I heavily prefer dialogue over anything.
     
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  8. Bogca

    Bogca New Member

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    Okay, thank you for your help.
     
  9. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    If you have a scene where it's important to know the thoughts and feelings of all characters, it might require a special kind of setup. There was a movie made by Kurasawa based around an incident, a crime of some kind, and there was a trial. In cross examination, each witness explained their own version of what they saw, and they all came out completely different. I haven't seen the movie, only read about it, but it does seem like this kind of setup would solve your particular problem. I mean, it doesn't need to be a trial, but something similar—maybe some powerful incident that's the heart of your story and an investigator or something who questions each person involved. And it wouldn't have to be an official investigator, I just mean an interested party who is invested in finding out what happened. Maybe a friend to some of the people involved, maybe he or she was involved as well.

    That's the best way I can think of (so far anyway) to keep going back to the same incident and showing different peoples' reactions to it. Either that or just have them all intensely discussing it afterward and getting into arguments because of their different interpretations.
     
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  10. Gladiolus83

    Gladiolus83 Contributor Contributor

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    The movie you are talking about is Rashomon, and I agree that it can serve as an example. I have seen the movie and really liked it.
     
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  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    As an aside, there's nothing wrong with head-hopping, provided you do it effectively and produce a good end product. It's all in the execution. The reason you see admonitions against head-hopping is that many writers, especially new ones, do it in a clumsy manner, or stumble into it, breaking POV without intending to.

    As for your question--try it a few different ways. You can go into the heads of any or all of them in third-person omniscient, and if you have qualms about what approach to take and what will work versus what won't, write the scene out a few different ways. I believe Virginia Woolf once hopped multiple heads in the same sentence--it is not forbidden, but like anything else in your story it must be done well.
     
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  12. Bogca

    Bogca New Member

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    The best way would be if not everything was in the same paragraph but divided when I go into another character's head, right?

    That's what confuses me so much.
     
  13. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    Yes, you're right. Head hopping in omniscient is very tricky and requires an awful amount of skill. So let's stick to this idea of one character's thoughts per paragraph, for starters.
    A very important piece of advice I've read somewhere concerning head hopping in omniscient: if you're going to do it, do it from the start, so the reader is used to expect it.
    When the reader is used to expect it, head hopping can occur in the same paragraph, even in the same sentence, but I wouldn't use it willy-nilly. I'd use it for the real intense dramatic parts.
    For starters, especially if you are new to this technique, a good rule of thumb would be "each character, each paragraph".
    Head hopping in omniscient is a lot harder to write than first or third person limited, so you'll also need very good beta readers to alert you when the change of POV is too abrupt.
    There are more tricks/techniques to do it right. I've found a few "how to do it" articles on head hopping around the web.
     
  14. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I can read a sample of your work (like that four character scene) if you'd like, and tell you what I think. I know how hard it is to find beta readers who won't pick on omniscient.
    (PM me if you like.)
     
  15. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    Let me make a suggestion.

    Write the scene. Then post it in the workshop for critique once you qualify.

    The important thing is not whether it is, or isn't head-hopping - it's whether it works in the context of your story. And you can only do that, once you've written it - or possibly, even as you're writing it.

    Don't feel the need to stick with rigid rules for POV. Just because it says "3rd omniscient is this", that you MUST do it that way. It can lead to inconsistencies in the story if you don't, but equally, it may work well or you decide that you'd rather go with 3rd limited.
     
  16. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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  17. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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  18. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Basically, Omniscient is told in sort of the style of listening to an actual storyteller. (The Omniscient Narrator.) The narrator somehow knows what the characters were thinking and feeling but since he isn't them he can only relate those thoughts and feelings as a second hand account. That is to say, he can't jump into their heads and show us their exact thoughts.

    (I mean, technically he should be able to do that because he's omniscient, but it's a stylistic thing.)

    That's the thing: It's not head hopping since you are always in the "head" of the narrator, at all times. The narrator is the perspective character, so it makes no sense to ask whether or not you should switch character perspectives. You literally can't head hop in properly written Omniscient.

    The neat thing is that because Omniscient doesn't restrict you to the perspective of any one character within the story, it gives you a lot of freedom in regards to what information to provide the readers. You can reveal any information any character is aware of, but also information that none of the characters are aware of. It also lets you play around with tone, time and stuff like that. The main drawback is that it's a bit distant and impersonal.

    Writing this style can be difficult if you're used to Third Person Limited, since you'll have become accustomed to having a main perspective character the reader is supposed to relate closely to. It's very easy to slip back into that habit and focus very closely on your main character: I know because I've been struggling with that myself.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2020
  19. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I think this is a good article that explains head-hopping. It's written by an editor, and she explains it very well, including a really good example of how a story works without head-hopping, versus how it doesn't work with head-hopping. (These are not Omniscient POV though, but Third Limited. Still worth a look, though.)

    https://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/blog/what-is-head-hopping-and-is-it-spoiling-your-fiction-writing
     
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  20. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    It’s a good write up but it’s too absolute. One is left with the sense that head-hopping (or mid-scene POV shifts) can never be used.
     
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  21. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I'd say it's a good idea to learn the absolutes, then play around with breaking them. I think most people who mess up are the ones who don't understand POV very well, or who don't understand how POV can alter a reader's experience. I think she did a great job of explaining the absolute.

    She does make the comment (down in the comments section) that some writers do 'head hop' and change POV within scenes and make it work. Neil Gaiman, Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard, etc. It would be good to see examples of their writing where they do this.

     
  22. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Heinlein will head-hop too, but I find it very jarring when he does because he doesn't do it very well.
     
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  23. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    She does make the comment, but qualifies it by talking about omniscient POV. I still get the impression she thinks you can't change POV like that if you're in third limited, which I don't agree with as an absolute though the reasons authors screw it up are worth knowing.
     
  24. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    https://ellenbrockediting.com/2013/11/26/the-difference-between-omniscient-pov-and-head-hopping/
    I like the comments a lot better. Especially this one: Ellen, I think your head-hopping rule is an attempt to contain a complex problem by applying a simple, one-size fits all solution.
     
  25. Thom

    Thom Active Member

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    I'd say grab a book off the shelf and skim through the dialogue. The best way to learn is by reading it.
    But a lot of it is intuitive of the reader. If they are told the conversation will be intense or adversarial, then they'll read it that way. Same way as with a romantic context. But a quick little descriptive with the dialogue helps.

    example

    The girl was terse when she said, "I didn't know that was going to happen!"
    " You must have known something? Seen something?" His brow was furrowed. Confused. He was desperate.
    She could see it in his eyes. But though she wanted to give him that answer he needed, she couldn't. "Then I am sorry. I don't know anything else about it."

    Hope that helps.

    Thom
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2020

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