Hatrack River
Home   |   About Orson Scott Card   |   News & Reviews   |   OSC Library   |   Forums   |   Contact   |   Links
Research Area   |   Writing Lessons   |   Writers Workshops   |   OSC at SVU   |   Calendar   |   Store
E-mail this page
Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » limited omniscient pov

   
Author Topic: limited omniscient pov
Smaug
Member
Member # 2807

 - posted      Profile for Smaug   Email Smaug         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
How often should you change pov if you're going to tell the story in limited omniscient pov? Could you do it effectively after several paragraphs? Or would you do it by scene? Chapter? Let me know what you think.
Posts: 440 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Natej11
Member
Member # 8547

 - posted      Profile for Natej11   Email Natej11         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The most important thing about any POV is that you let the reader immediately know what it is, and you make it clear when it changes.

I don't have too much experience with omniscient POVs, usually I do third person limited. I would suggest describing the scene without actually mentioning anyone's thoughts or insights at first, then when you do mention people jump through a few people's heads so readers know you're going omniscient.

Either that or don't show anyone's thoughts, just what you could extrapolate from their expressions, words, actions, etc, like you're describing the scene from the viewpoint of an observer. Although I guess that's not really omniscient.

You can make just about anything work, as long as you're consistent and the readers know what you're doing. Sorry I couldn't offer too many insights here. As far as I know third person omniscient has really fallen into disuse; I haven't seen a story written like that for a long time.


Posts: 587 | Registered: Mar 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
redux
Member
Member # 9277

 - posted      Profile for redux   Email redux         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I believe the Harry Potter books are limited PoV. Perhaps take a look at those books again and see how Rowling handled it. It's been a while since I last read them, but I believe she would switch PoVs within a scene. I think the key is to be consistent with character tags.
Posts: 525 | Registered: Sep 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Meredith
Member
Member # 8368

 - posted      Profile for Meredith   Email Meredith         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
believe the Harry Potter books are limited PoV. Perhaps take a look at those books again and see how Rowling handled it. It's been a while since I last read them, but I believe she would switch PoVs within a scene. I think the key is to be consistent with character tags.

Actually, other than an omniscient chapter at the beginning of each book, Harry Potter is told exclusively from Harry's POV.

The Ranger's Apprentice books (MG) are omniscient. It was very disorienting for me at first to get the thoughts of multiple characters within one scene.


Posts: 3899 | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
axeminister
Member
Member # 8991

 - posted      Profile for axeminister   Email axeminister         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I've found HP books to be tricky with the POV. They're written so smoothly you don't notice the POV violations, but they're there.

I don't remember verbatim, but I looked it up once, picked a random page, and found one immediately.

The one was something like blah blah blah, thought Ron. Or Ron thought it was a good idea to eat the snarglemuffin too.

Now maybe he thought it, because he did it, and it was obvious to Harry he thought it because he followed through on the action, but I'd say take another look. It was more omni than we're led to believe simply because Harry's in the scenes we're referring to.

Axe


Posts: 1467 | Registered: Jan 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
redux
Member
Member # 9277

 - posted      Profile for redux   Email redux         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I revisited some excerpts from Harry Potter. Rowling sometimes jumps around with the PoV. So it probably wasn't the best of examples.


Posts: 525 | Registered: Sep 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Teraen
Member
Member # 8612

 - posted      Profile for Teraen   Email Teraen         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I may be mistaken, but can you even do that? I think you can't...

Omniscient implies that the character knows the thoughts, motivations, and consequences of other character's actions.

POV implies that the character is reporting what they see.

For a single narrator, omniscient POV works, but if you start shifting POV's and maintain the omniscience, you are implying either:

1) The characters are omniscient. If you are creating a story about a Pantheon of Greek Gods, this might work. But knowing every other character's deep thoughts is going to make conflict difficult...

2) This is being told post-facto by those who survived the story and someone afterwards each one has been let in on the thoughts and intents of the others since the events.

Neither one of these seem very easy to pull off, to me at least.

If you are asking how often you can change POV, the answer is as often as you like -- but as a personal request PLEASE FLAG SUCH CHANGES! I get so irritated when I am reading and suddenly the POV switches between characters in the middle of a paragraph. I used to think it was a beginning mistake, but I am seeing it in published novels now! Its impossible to keep track of a story that way. At least flag such changes by chapter breaks or some other break so the reader is aware.

One particularly egregious example I read recently involved two lovers having a spat. The scene started out with one as they were fighting, and switched to the other mid argument. The author was so obscure about it I was confused as to who was arguing what for several pages because I assumed the thoughts I was reading were the initial characters when it turns out they weren't.

Please don't do that. Big pet peeve of mine.

You man now return to your regularly scheduled interneting.

(Teraen gets off soapbox)


Posts: 496 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Limited Omniscient would mean that the narrator only knows or chooses to reveal the thoughts of some of the characters. You could describe The Lord of the Rings and Dune as examples of limited omniscient POV since not all viewpoints are exposed, although they are more typically considered simply as being in omniscient POV.

To answer your question, you can head-hop all you like. However, I would suggest you do it sparingly, because most modern readers are less accustomed to this style. I grew up on the classics, when head-hopping was the standard, so it doesn't bother me except in it being out of the ordinary in this day.

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited October 03, 2011).]


Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MAP
Member
Member # 8631

 - posted      Profile for MAP           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A lot of the classics were told by omniscient POV, like Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, Crime and Punnishment, etc. Harry Potter is omniscient POV even though the story seems like it is from Harry's POV exclusively. If you look closely, it's not.

I'm not an expert on omniscient POV, but from what I understand, the story is told from a narrator's POV. The narrator itself is like a character that doesn't appear in the book, but the narrator knows everything, so the narrator is what is omniscient and can dip into any characters' head or be in no characters' head at all. The narrator decides what the reader needs to know and can even color the way things are presented with his/her own attitude.

The consistent voice of the narrator is what makes omniscient work (of course with smooth transitions and clarity). There is no jarring change in POV because the story is always told by the same POV character even if many readers don't even realize that character exists. The fact that the story never changes tone or voice makes the reader not question whose perspective the scene is told in. If the narrator doesn't have a strong voice, it could come off as head hopping.

I have never written omniscient, but a writer once gave the advice that for writing in it: imagine the story being told by a specific story teller, an old man at a pub, a whimiscal nanny putting kids to sleep, or a wise old woman in a knitting circle, and capture that as the narrator.

So to answer the original question. You really never change POV in omniscient POV, but you can jump into any character's head whenever you want.

This is at least how I understand Omniscient POV. I'm happy to be corrected if I got it wrong.

[This message has been edited by MAP (edited October 03, 2011).]


Posts: 1076 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MattLeo
Member
Member # 9331

 - posted      Profile for MattLeo   Email MattLeo         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think Smaug means "third person limited" as opposed to "third person omniscient". If there are things a narrator doesn't know, then he can't be omniscient, because that means "all-knowing".

Now to stop being pedantic and start being helpful, let me start by saying that there are no rules that can't be broken with good reason, so take this with the requisite grain of salt: you should not change character POV within a scene. That's what's called "head hopping".

The justification for this rule is that you usually want the reader to put himself in the POV character's place. You want him to feel like *he's* the one dueling the dashing but nefarious Rupert of Hentzau in the dungeons of Zenda. This is particularly the case for third person *limited*, because getting the reader into the POV character's head is the chief reason to choose that narrative style.

Head hopping usually feels unnatural to readers, but it's important to remember that narration is nearly always unnatural. It's a bit like a magic trick. You convince the reader that he's inside the POV character's head. Head hopping brings the mechanics of the illusion to the reader's attention. Even though he may not understand how narration works, it just feels unconvincing and artificial, which as writers we know are two different matters altogether.

Why insist on one POV per scene, but not necessarily one per chapter? Well, one POV for chapter is probably a good idea too, but chapter is really quite an arbitrary division in a story. A scene is the smallest natural unit of storytelling. Most of the time a scene describes a contiguous or nearly contiguous period of time, at least when you're doing the literary equivalent of the pages blowing off the calendar movie cut scene. At the start of a new scene, the reader is quite prepared to be informed that he's in a different place and time, so POV character is just one more parameter that can change. Just like it would feel weird for the location or time of a scene to shift without explanation, it feels weird to switch heads without explanation.

So if we should seldom if ever change POV within a scene, how often should we change it? I'd say never without a good reason, but there's lots of good reasons. This is where you get into the limitations of the "limited" perspective. The omniscient narrator can simply tell you "Mary-Sue is walking up the path to the old manor, but she is unaware of its sinister history." But you can't say that in "limited" narration, because what's outside the scope of the POV character's knowledge can't be narrated.

So one of the good reasons to shift POV is to introduce information the protagonist does not know. This is an indispensable technique for creating suspense (and one of the reasons that creating suspense in first person is so much harder). If necessary, I think it's OK to split a scene in two in order to do this; if your suspense works then maybe it'll cover the seam in narration. But you can't do that too often or the mechanics of the illusion will show.

The reason that POV changes shouldn't be done without justification is that it's hard work to get a reader into a character's skin. The more frequently you change POV and the larger number of POV characters the more work you have to do to get the effect. I know high fantasy tends to hand out "speaking parts" to lots of characters, but even granting genre conventions I think restraint is a good idea.

Third person limited has a big advantage when it comes to getting the readers to imagine being the POV character, but it introduces lots of information management problems. When you need to introduce things outside the POV character's awareness, you normally have to introduce it in a separate scene with a different POV character. Even things within the POV character's ken can be hard to introduce convincingly. Why would the character reflect on the (to him) well-known history of the empire he is living in? The omniscient narrator tells us, because he's *there* to be omniscient.

You can break the rules of course, as long as you don't do it frequently and conspicuously. Occasionally you can sneak a bit of omniscient knowledge into limited narration. Or you can slip into "free indirect speech" by having an omniscient narrator speak the POV character's thoughts without attribution. As I said, narration (except possibly stream of consciousness narration) is an unnatural contrivance, so there's no rules other than what you can get away with. So go ahead and try to break the canons of taste and see if it works. Just don't do it too often. If it doesn't work you'll have to redo *all* your narration.


Posts: 1294 | Registered: Dec 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
axeminister
Member
Member # 8991

 - posted      Profile for axeminister   Email axeminister         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
A lot of the classics were told by omniscient POV, like Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, Crime and Punnishment, etc. Harry Potter is omniscient POV even though the story seems like it is from Harry's POV exclusively. If you look closely, it's not.
Right. You said this much better than I did. This is what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it.
quote:
I have never written omniscient, but a writer once gave the advice that for writing in it: imagine the story being told by a specific story teller, an old man at a pub, a whimiscal nanny putting kids to sleep, or a wise old woman in a knitting circle, and capture that as the narrator.
Just today, finally, I was thinking about a possible WotF entry should my phone call be a sad one. I've got a 5k story written in Omni that I would just need to add some meat to. I want it to be a more defined Omni, so I thought I might change it to a mother telling the story to her kids, but go into the story. (Like they do in How I Met Your Mother.) So, again, thanks MAP for saying what I was thinking.
quote:
So to answer the original question. You really never change POV in omniscient POV, but you can jump into any character's head whenever you want.
Exactly. Damn, 3 for 3.

Axe


Posts: 1467 | Registered: Jan 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MattLeo
Member
Member # 9331

 - posted      Profile for MattLeo   Email MattLeo         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I disagree with MAP about POV in third person omniscient. I think most of the time a well written third person omniscient story focuses on the POV of a single character per scene. The reasoning is the same as in third person limited, but the author gives himself license to introduce useful information that is outside the POV character's thoughts, perception or awareness.

Head hopping omniscient narration gives a story a kind of purplish Victorian feel.


Posts: 1294 | Registered: Dec 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
LDWriter2
Member
Member # 9148

 - posted      Profile for LDWriter2   Email LDWriter2         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 

I know some writers will change POVs at the beginning of chapters, others will change after a certain scene but I have also read published works that change during a scene. Personally the chapter changes seem to be the less confusing and the scene changes are usually second. Sometimes the POV changes within a scene are done well and I have no problems with them but other times I fins it takes me a second or three to figure things out. It may depend on the skill of the writer.

If you have a regular reader you could practice and see which you do better with. If not or you don't want to take the time I would suggest changing the POV at chapter breaks.


Posts: 4847 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MAP
Member
Member # 8631

 - posted      Profile for MAP           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
I disagree with MAP about POV in third person omniscient. I think most of the time a well written third person omniscient story focuses on the POV of a single character per scene. The reasoning is the same as in third person limited, but the author gives himself license to introduce useful information that is outside the POV character's thoughts, perception or awareness.

Well, I disagree.

I think a good story usually stays primarily with the main character. So many time in omniscient POV it looks like the story is only being told through the eyes of the MC. But if you read closely, you see that there are occasional and brief dips into other characters' heads (like Axe and redux, I've noticed this in Harry Potter). If it is done right, it is so smooth that you don't even notice unless you are looking for it.

[This message has been edited by MAP (edited October 04, 2011).]


Posts: 1076 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I've read quite a bit of third person omniscient, and early on, I wrote largely in it. It is more of a narrator's POV. The narrator functions not so much as a unseen character, but as a nonparticipating observer. I suppose he or she is somewhat like God, but I would prefer to compare him to The Watcher from Marvel comics or Uncle Remus from Brer Rabbit. I only mention these because there are faces to connect to the role, but there are countless other examples. The narrator typically does stay with one character per scene, such a Frodo, but he informs us of others thoughts and motives as well.

I honestly have never understood why this is so disliked. LOTR and Dune are two of my favorite fantasy and sciece fiction books respectively and the POV does not bother me at all.


Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Smaug
Member
Member # 2807

 - posted      Profile for Smaug   Email Smaug         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks for all the input. In my story I have one main character, but several major characters. All of their stories need to be told and there are some scenes in which the major character isn't around. So I have to jump heads to at least some degree. For example, in my opening scene, I have my main character in the saloon, drunk--hardly capable of observing all that is going on around him. At the same time, another major character is outside the saloon observing the arrival of some bad guys. Of course, the drunk doesn't know what's happening outside. I guess that makes it omniscient. My understanding of limited omniscient is that it's the same thing as third-person limited...the narrator isn't a participant in the story and doesn't reveal the thoughts and feelings of all the characters. I guess I've written things that way, revealing the thoughts and feelings of some, but not all of the major characters--two or three of them, even though there are five.
So, yeah, I just don't want to make it too jarring, and I don't think I'm doing so...just wondering. I think I have a good grip on what sounds good in a story, and what doesn't, but every time I read a how-to writing book, I begin to question myself.
Another thing I just noticed as I was editing was that in my scene in which the character is waiting outside, I describe him, and then go into his thoughts...obviously the character himself wouldn't be describing himself in that way. So maybe this is a big mistake?

[This message has been edited by Smaug (edited October 04, 2011).]


Posts: 440 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Smaug
Member
Member # 2807

 - posted      Profile for Smaug   Email Smaug         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
And I've been reading Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand jumps around a lot from head to head...some of it jarring me, but perhaps only because it's not done as much now.
Posts: 440 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MattLeo
Member
Member # 9331

 - posted      Profile for MattLeo   Email MattLeo         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, MAP, perhaps we don't disagree so much after all.

We get led astray, I think, by having clever labels for things. There's a clear mechanical distinction between first and third person narration, but no such clear difference between omniscient and limited narration. Somebody noticed that some authors adopted a more limited perspective in narration, gave that style a name, and before you know it we're having arguments about what is or isn't permissible. *Anything you can get away with is permissible*.

If you think of "limited" as a style rather than a system of narration, I think you'll see that most authors writing in third person omniscient freely shift into and out of a more limited style, like a pipe organist opening and closing a stop. If we were constrained to only one narrative style in a book, then an omniscient narrator would never speak the POV character's thoughts without attribution, e.g., instead of saying, "This might be the key that unlocks the entire mystery," you'd have to write "Jack thought this might be the key..." But we're not constrained. The extra narrative machinery of attribution is unnecessary if you don't do much head-hopping.

So being *radically* limited in narration is just a stylistic choice that squeezes the most out of third person limited's advantages, but at the huge expense of having to contrive ways to brief the reader on things he needs to know. Another stylistic choice seldom used these days is to go radically omniscient. That has many advantages when it comes to briefing readers. The narrator is free to comment on anything he wants, or to show us the contents of anyone's head at any time. The difficulty is that this brings the narrator to the fore. It's true that in omniscient the narrator is a character, but how much to draw the reader's attention to that is a choice you make.

Douglas Adams wrote *The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy* in a radically omniscient third person voice, and his narrator is definitely a character.The narrator is constantly chiming in with coolly ironic observations, gleefully foisting shaggy dog backstory on us, and showing us the comic differences between what's going through the heads of people present in a scene. But this comes at a cost: the narrator is by far the most memorable character in the book. We do identify with Arthur, but it's not a close identification. He's more like a friendly acquaintance than an alter-ego.

Terry Pratchett also narrates omnisciently, but less radically so. His narrator has much the same bag of tricks as Adams's narrator, plus another one: the Discworld narrator often chooses fade into the background, adopting the persona of the POV character. That's why we're apt to identify more strongly with so many Discworld characters in a way we don't with any character in *Hitchhiker's Guide*.

I think the way radically omniscient narration brings the narrator to the fore bears on my observation about sounding Victorian. If your narrator doesn't have a scintillating personality, he comes across as stuffy or condescending.

[This message has been edited by MattLeo (edited October 04, 2011).]


Posts: 1294 | Registered: Dec 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Matt, I believe your definition for "character" is different from mine. In omniscient, the narrator is typically the voice of the author, unless there is an Uncle Remus character telling the story. That is one of the primary reasons why readers often complain of authorial intrusion when it comes to omniscient point of view. The purplish prose is a byproduct of the author waxing eloquent and often has a substantially different vocabulary and tone than the characters do. The early novel was somewhat of a descendent of theatrical plays. In fact, Don Quixote, the grandfather of novels, is moreoften performed as a play than as cinema. In a play, the narrator is not a character.

I was never a voracious reader in my youth, nor could I truly admit to being one now. However, I do tend to consume every ounce of what I do read. I am hindered by constant needs for visualizing what is happening and for having to concentrate on not just sucking in words without meaning. That said, I have never understood the need for readers to be part of the story. I watch movies and television without feeling like I am one of the characters, and for me, reading is a similar experience. However, I write knowing this is not the experience of most readers and that the majority prefer to be immersed into a character - hence my recently posted topic.

This is why I would suggest Smaug write this in third person limited. In truth, I feel that it is the author who makes any story work and that a story can be told in any POV and still work, depending on the skill of the writer. Sure, a story will work better in one POV more so than another; this is why not everything is written only one way. The problem Smaug describes with the drunk character and the action in the street could easily be resolved by a scene change. And unless there is a transition device, like following a character out the saloon door and into the street, then the street should be a separate scene, even in omniscient POV - all you do is get on board another character.

In science fiction, omniscient is a tough sell. Omniscient is still popular in literary and young adult novels, although often disguised, but science fiction seems prejudiced to this POV - Just something to consider.

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited October 04, 2011).]


Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
micmcd
Member
Member # 7977

 - posted      Profile for micmcd   Email micmcd         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think we sometimes get a little overcritical on calling things head hopping as well. A limited POV can still tell some things about what other people are thinking or what they can see, hear, etc.

A long time ago (years), I got crits from a handful of people here on a scene that went something like this. (Thomas == POV char)

quote:

Thomas stood back and watched as the crowd gathered. Maria, embedded with the crowd, could hear them speak. Frank, watching from the other side, could see their faces.


No fewer than two people flagged that for head hopping, because Thomas couldn't know what Maria could hear or what Frank could see... except that everything before that section makes it clear that Thomas is calling the shots and sent Maria to be embedded in the crowd so that she could hear them and similarly sent Frank to the other side to watch their faces. I don't have to say, "Thomas knew that Frank could see their faces." It's fine to just say "Frank could see their faces," and I'm not violating anybody's point of view.

You can also say, within reason, what other characters are thinking. Mind you, the POV character might be wrong, but it's perfectly fine to say "The box popped open. Surprised, Maria backed up against the wall, her eyes wide."

Again, I'm assuming Maria isn't the POV character (let's say it was Thomas again). A reasonable person could say that a woman was surprised if she backs up against the wall, eyes wide, at the sudden opening of a box. I use little tags like that all the time, quite intentionally, because they are far clearer than describing the exact muscle movement of Maria's face and bring the image of a surprised woman out quite well with only a few words. I don't think I'm violating anything by so doing. The reader is still in Thomas's head. It's just that Thomas's head isn't as limited as we sometimes think.

Imagine a guy hitting on a girl at a bar, from the guy's POV.

quote:

Tony did his best. He nailed the Cowboys joke and she even laughed. He bought her a drink. He even kept his eyes north of the collarbone, and boy was it tempting. But she wasn't into it. The conversation drifted to a stop, and eventually she lied and said she had to go call her friend. That was that.

She wasn't into it. I didn't hop into the unnamed girl's head; Tony just knew she wasn't into it (who's to say Tony was right?). I also just flat out said she lied, but Tony doesn't know that. He thinks he knows that, but he could be wrong.

We don't have to tag everything that the POV character thinks with a "he thought" or put it in italics. I've heard this style described as "deep penetration," and it's fine - preferred even - than physical-description-only third person limited or thoughts-always-tagged 3PL. Also, because it turns out I never aged after turning sixteen, I giggle every time I hear that name.

[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited October 04, 2011).]


Posts: 499 | Registered: May 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
LDWriter2
Member
Member # 9148

 - posted      Profile for LDWriter2   Email LDWriter2         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
micmcd, I think you have a point.

With the girl in the crowd I would assume it was a safe bet that if someone saw a girl in a crowd that they would know that she could hear what the people around her were saying.

But then again showing what the POV character knows is being pushed these days so it would be no surprise that someone's readers would be overly critical of what seems to be a change of POV.


And I have seen the line "she was lying", that you used in the last example, in published stories. Either I didn't care that it was the narrator giving us a bit of info the POV character couldn't know or I assumed it was what the character thought even though it never said So and so thought she was lying.

As I said I have seen that type of thing in published stories. I have tried to use the same technique and sometimes I get called on it. I sometimes get frustrated because it's used by more than a couple of pro writers yet we can't do the same. But then again maybe the people critiquing my story misunderstood what I was trying for.


Posts: 4847 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
micmcd
Member
Member # 7977

 - posted      Profile for micmcd   Email micmcd         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:

As I said I have seen that type of thing in published stories. I have tried to use the same technique and sometimes I get called on it. I sometimes get frustrated because it's used by more than a couple of pro writers yet we can't do the same. But then again maybe the people critiquing my story misunderstood what I was trying for.

We're allowed to use it. Crit partners can be wrong. If you need an authoritative source saying that we're allowed to do it too, I picked up the name for that literary technique from OSC's latest Writing Camp - I believe his exact quote in class was that we have developed the techniques to be able to tell stories like this over the years. Use them.

Earlier it was mentioned that the classics were written in omniscient styles. I don't think that matters much. Storytelling was different back then. It used to be acceptable in sci fi to start with two professors of physics having a convenient conversation explaining the rules of the world, or any of a dozen other painful info dumps. We don't need that now. Storytelling has evolved for the better. Similarly, some things that worked well in older books no longer cut it in modern fiction. Styles have changed, and that's okay.


Posts: 499 | Registered: May 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
LDWriter2
Member
Member # 9148

 - posted      Profile for LDWriter2   Email LDWriter2         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 

I'm talking about more than one though with more than a couple stories. And even though I can't recall for sure if it was with that technique but that has included a assistant editor for a pro magazine.

But I'm not convinced that doing away with the Omniscient POV or even partial Omniscient, was a good thing. I still like it and as mentioned by someone else it's also my default writing style.

And through a couple of discussions I don't think as many readers reject it as editors think.


Posts: 4847 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Secondmost successful author, currently, John Grisham writes a limited omniscient narrative point of view. It's a spy eye perspective with limited access to select and pertinent surface thoughts. Because of it, his novels are readily translatable to film. The narrative distance is somewhat open, not particularly intimate the way close narrative distance narratives are, yet the storylines keep eyes on the page.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game has a tight narrative distance that pulls back a bit when the "camera" switches to other characters, which are deftly handled and artfully timely and judiciously varied for best dramatic effect.

It's possible to close in closer narrative distance than that though. Danger close. But what constitutes danger close varies widely from reader to reader. Voyeur close for some. Busybody close for some. Eavesdropper close for some. Right smack in the middle of a narrative persona's third-eye for some. Creepy-close for some. Kelly Eskeridge's "Dangerous Space" to me, has that deep and close of a narrative distance, actually, I think that's kind of what the narrative is about.

Kurt Vonnegut, on the other hand, wrote a god-like limited selected omniscient narrative point of view for many of his narratives. His most successful novel Slaughterhouse Five has a closer narrative distance than his other novels and short stories. But then again, it's semi-autobiographical. He was personally close to the dramatic events; therefore, readers can close in to the dramatic action too. "Harrison Bergeron"'s narrative distance is so wide open a solar system could drive through between reader and storyline, yet it's as well-executed as the topic and subject matter best need be.

Narrative distance can vary across a gamut within a narrative from danger close to wide open, and usually does, zooming in, foreshortened perspectives, zooming out, wide-angle fields of view, so long as the transitions aren't too disruptive for the target audience's capacity to follow them, which vary widely too, mostly along a reader skill axis, somewhat age axis too. Younger, less experienced reading audiences have less capacity to process and evaluate multiple viewpoints than older and more experienced reading audiences.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited October 05, 2011).]


Posts: 3402 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MattLeo
Member
Member # 9331

 - posted      Profile for MattLeo   Email MattLeo         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
philocinemas -- why should an author limit himself to only one voice, or one set of opinions? The narrator can assume any kind of persona the author wishes. I do NOT assume that the narrator *Hitchiker's Guide* is Douglas Adams. The narrator is a work of fiction; he may reflect in a distorted way some facet of Douglas Adams' personality, but the same can be said for Arthur Dent. If we combine the two, we might get closer to picture of what the author was like, but there's still more too him. You'd miss the Douglas Adams of "Last Chance to See", who cares a great deal about things that Arthur Dent would ignore as irrelevant and the narrator of HHGTTG would only care about as an occasion for some smart-alecky quip.

micmcd -- the problem is that doing a really *good* critique is hard work. That's why you get line edits even when you are specifically asking for a different kind of read. Flagging something has "head hopping" is also an easy thing to do, like catching the kids with their elbows on the table.

I happen to agree with you about the example you used. Human beings are wired to infer what other human beings can see or not see, therefore you can include that information in third person limited narration without breaking the spell. That doesn't mean that people flagging this aren't still doing you a favor. You can just disagree with them, or even better put your critical examination glasses on and see whether you have a problem in the passage. It might not be as unsubtle as head hopping; it might be more of a narrative distance thing. If you don't see any problem, then move on.

One of the toughest things about critiquing is to make allowances for the highly unnatural way you're reading the MS. Sometimes the most valuable things are simple, like telling the author where you lose interest.


Posts: 1294 | Registered: Dec 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I read OSC's Empire about a year ago, and I recall a few instances especially before the "big surprise", when there was some head-hopping.

I recently finished King's Dark Tower series, and he started changing from third limited to omniscient to first sometimes within the same or adjoining chapters toward the end.


Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Matt, I see HGTTG as an exception. Most omniscient narrators do not have much of a personality. Actually, the first that I recall with much of a personality was Mark Twain - I believe that was omniscient, but not certain. The narrator in his stories were undoubtedly Twain, proven as such by his frequent public readings. Either way, omniscient or not, I do feel that comedies are more subject to having stand-out narrators.
Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MattLeo
Member
Member # 9331

 - posted      Profile for MattLeo   Email MattLeo         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think a narrator, unless he confines him self entirely to description, necessarily has an attitude, viewpoint and personality. If he is not "in character" as the POV character, what he chooses to describe and how he describes it count as personality. Does he focus a great deal on people's faces, body language and tone of voice? Is he (like Tolkien) a nature fiend? Does he describe things prosaically or poetically? Does he use value loaded language? All of these idiosyncrasies give us a picture of the narrator.

Of course omniscient narration is often nondescript, but I happen to count that as a fault. I consider Adams' memorable narrative voice a tremendous virtue (although *aping* that voice isn't necessarily such a virtue).

The idiosyncrasies of an omniscient narrator *can* represent some facet of the author's personality, but I'm saying they don't have to. I think they seldom give a true picture of the author. Even when an author sincerely *intends* the narrator to reflect himself, we can't necessarily trust the author's self-knowledge.


Posts: 1294 | Registered: Dec 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
philocinemas
Member
Member # 8108

 - posted      Profile for philocinemas   Email philocinemas         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
My point is only that my definition of "character" is someone or something that interacts with others or at least with the environment within a story. Omniscient narrators seldom do this.

It is worth noting that the green ball on the cover of the Hitchhiker series is the embodiment of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which does respond to questions and interacts somewhat with Arthur and Ford. Therefore, being a super-genius computerized encyclopedia of everything, it qualifies as a character in my book.


Posts: 2003 | Registered: Jul 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2