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Grace Roman

Is The Omnipotent Narrator Dead?

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I have written scenes that have only the male protagonist, scenes with only the female protagonist and scenes with both. How would I do this without an omniscient (oh yes, I meant "is the omniscient narrator dead?")

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You have first person (I), Second person (you), and Third person (he/she/they) to choose from. You don't have to stay in one head for the whole story, but stay in one head for the whole chapter.

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Another thing to consider, Grace, is that the highest percentage of successful novels are written entirely in the omniscient narrator. It's been the norm for quite a while. First person novels are normally submitted by beginning writers because it's the way they like to write. (I don't mean that badly. There are successful first person novels, so it's not a hard and fast rule, it's just that so many editors have to wade through first person submissions that turn out poorly that they are automatically more leery of them- and they have good reason.) Second person novels are the least successful of three. I hope that helps. A few of the editors I know automatically wastebasket fiction written in the first person. I think that's a bit extreme, but that's how they are. Some of my favorite novels are written in first person!

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I'm a fan of first person, as well, but good omniscient POV has been out of vogue for some time and most mentors caution against it.

 

My mantra is simple: you can break the rules reserved for newer authors - just be brilliant. ;)

 

Here's a great post with example of good omniscient narrators.

http://www.nownovel.com/blog/omniscient-narrator-examples-tips/

 

2: Using omniscient narration to show readers your fictional world’s history

Omniscient narration also lets you give a broader, objective slice of your world’s history.

 

In Reedsy’s helpful post on omniscient narration, they discuss Sir Terry Pratchett’s use. Pratchett’s Discworld fantasy series uses a historian-like omniscient narrator. Here, Pratchett describes Discworld’s city Ankh Morpork in the first book, The Colour of Magic (1983):

 

‘The twin city of proud Ankh and pestilent Morpork, of which all the other cities of time and space are, as it were, mere reflections, has stood many assualts in its long and crowded history and has always risen to flourish again. So the fire and its subsequent flood, which destroyed everything left that was not flammable and added a particularly noisome flux to the survivors’ problems, did not mark its end. Rather it was a fiery punctuation mark, a coal-like comma, or salamander semicolon, in a continuing story.’

 

This backstory quickly shifts to describe the present, when a mysterious character arrives on a cargo ship, seen by a beggar at the docks:

 

‘[The ship] carried a cargo of pink pearls, milk-nuts, pumice, some official letters for the Patrician of Ankh, and a man.

 

‘It was the man who engaged the attention of Blind Hugh, one of the beggars on early duty at Pearl Dock. He nudged Cripple Wa in the ribs, and pointed wordlessly.’ (pp. 7-8)

 

Omniscient narration enables Pratchett to move quickly between a bird’s eye view of the city’s history and the present time of the story, showing the city’s comings and goings through a large cast of secondary characters.

 

Move between focal points – setting and character – using omniscient narration this way to show broader details of life in a city or society.

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Phy! Thank you for these articles. I believe my novel is best told in Omniscient. But I was told by an editor that I head hopped. Therefore I have rewritten, and continue to rewrite in third person. I am unclear, even after reading these articles, how not to head hop in omniscient.

I have colour coded my scenes and chapters in Scrivener according to POV. There are 3 main views, and one that seems incidental but is essential to the ending. The first section is heavily one colour, then the colours intermingle. One character goes insane and I can't write from her POV at all (It would just be describing snake tongues looping around her head, and limbs flying out of hillsides). I fear there is no order or rhythm to the changes in POV.

Soon I'll be posting some on the critique board and I look forward to comments.

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Phy! Thank you for these articles. I believe my novel is best told in Omniscient. But I was told by an editor that I head hopped. Therefore I have rewritten, and continue to rewrite in third person. I am unclear, even after reading these articles, how not to head hop in omniscient.

 

Here's a handy article on the difference between an Omniscient Narrator and head-hopping. The author credits Janice Hardy with the distinction.

 

"

Let’s take a look at the most common POV approaches.

 

  • First person: The main character shares the story directly, so the story should be told in that character’s voice.
  • Close third person: A character shares the story less directly, but the story should be told in that character’s voice.
  • Omniscient: Like close third person, the third person pronouns are used, but for omniscient, the story is told in the author/non-character narrator/eye-of-God’s voice.

In other words, an omniscient POV story would be able to share different characters’ thoughts and feelings, but would not word them in the characters’ voices. Head-hopping occurs when the narrative jumps from one character’s voice to another without a signal or break in-between."

 

(btw, that is a clever use of the tools in Scrivener. Thanks for that.)

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In the comments from the same post:

"...if a story is using the voices of the characters for introspection, then it’s close third person and not omniscient. And if it’s close third person, we need transitions between POVs to avoid head-hopping."

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Physical and suspensewriter, please consider reading my entry "What is Love?", which is part of the first chapter of what I hope to turn into a novel or literary work.

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