Prepared by: Patricia Johnson
Posted on: September 21, 2003
Reposted on: July 11, 2005
How does an author narrate in omniscient
POV, given that the modern
assume limited POV unless strongly clued in otherwise? A good question.
start out by defining omniscient POV and third-person limited POV.
Omniscient POV is not used often by
authors today. The omniscient
knows everything about the story including all characters, action,
events. This can give a distant feel to the story. Because of this
and all-seeing, the author can enter every character's thoughts.
can lead to confusion if not done masterfully. The author has to
transition from one POV to another. The author may decide to use the
POV without jumping inside characters' minds, but he must still
narrative voice to avoid a tangle of information.
Limited third-person is the most common
POV in use today. If the POV
third-person, then the narrative is narrowed to one character or a few
characters. Limited POV helps eliminate "head-hopping" and confusion on
part of the reader. Authors use several devices to keep the limited
narration easy for the reader to follow. One way is to reveal just one
character's senses, thoughts and feelings during each scene. This keeps
reader intrigued while still keeping the story and POV clear. Some
title segments and chapters to reveal which character is present for
One character can describe, involve him/herself in action, and sense
the other characters who are present in the scene/chapter are doing.
authors alternate between characters in the chapters/paragraphs.
paragraphs is more challenging than alternating scenes or whole
In a short word count submission, such as
this exercise, it may be
tell whether third-person limited POV or omniscient POV is being used.
One device that allows total omniscience
to be clear in a story is
to use more
than one character in the omniscient POV. Describe what each character
by providing careful changes in the POV. Combine this with action. Add
An example: Robert
thought it odd that his
supervisor was waiting
in his office. He bent over his secretary's desk,
"Audrey, run the
mail down right now, please." Robert was always one
bases, and sending his secretary out on an errand
would insure she
could not hear what was about to take place.
Note how we both read the thoughts of
Robert and also read the
that Robert covers bases. This moves the focus away from Robert, and
into a transition to the secretary's POV:
Audrey was tired of
being sent away from her desk
so frequently. "Sure
Robert, I just took the mail two hours ago, though."
She left the office
walking slowly. She stopped to talk to her friend
Amy, then took the
elevator to the mail room. It was obvious enough to
anyone that Robert was
in trouble, why he thought he could hide his troubles
with his boss from
her by sending her out of the room angered her.
So we have see the scene from both
Robert's and Audrey's POV --
In 300 words or less, seamlessly shift the
totally omniscient POV
scene between two characters. Make your transitions between characters
seamless as possible. Make clear to the reader when you have switched
character is now in view. Use the devices listed above to keep the
of the shifting in the POV.
When critiquing look for points to mention
about omniscient POV such
as, if the
transitions worked; was the omniscient viewpoint achieved; and did the
go inside the character's thoughts.
It may help to review Lani Kraus's and
exercises on POV at the
Internet Writing Workshop website's Practice Exercises to review the
POVs. The URL is:
Patricia Johnson's wrap-up
Posted on: October 7, 2003
There were many observations from
participants about the difficulty
success of this exercise. Even though this wrap-up is late, I wanted to
to post the comments and observations. These will help to strengthen
exercise on the rewrite.
One of the most important points brought
up involved head hoping. In
word-count, OMNI POV might be read as merely head-hoping. It is in fact
like a camera in a location that allows recording everything within the
The camera is all-seeing, an observer with a big picture, or God-like.
goes beyond a camera's viewpoint OMNI POV allows expression of unique
observations such as information on the scene and sensory input,
historical data and details, and back story, as well as information
characters' thoughts, habits and physical details. As one member
OMNI allows the author's narrator to step outside the story to make
It may be beneficial to have another OMNI
exercise that focuses on
of an overall scene or history outside of the characters' minds.
Word count of 300 may be too limiting for
this exercise leading to
and confusion. The limited word count did not allow OMNI to develop and
the use of limited third person in many cases. In addition, the fact
POV is not used frequently in today's shorter stories led to the
identifying it. An increased word count would make the submissions more
successful and identifiable as OMNI POV.
Thanks to everyone for your insights and
Patricia L. Johnson
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