My Writers Circle

Writing => All the Write Questions => Topic started by: Skip Slocum on May 07, 2009, 10:36:00 AM

Title: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Skip Slocum on May 07, 2009, 10:36:00 AM
Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate

My position in this discussion is student-debater not instructor. Please tell me everything you know on, “Third-Person Omniscient Narrative.”

The only source I have at this moment is Wikipedia.

My motivation behind this question / discussion: I am writing a story where the main character has the ability to know the thoughts of other men/women as well as the thoughts of animals, and to gleam bits of truth through dreams of past and future. A narrative of Third-Person Omniscient appears to be exactly what I need and want to tell my story.

Nevertheless, I am wondering if there are aspects of this “Tool” I am not using properly. (Not knowing what all the buttons on the remote are for).

It seems that when I employ this type of narration, I am being told, “You are –Head hopping-” or “Drifting” or “You must have a break in the scene before you can change narrative point of view.”

However, according to the definition:

Third-person omniscient point of view can change viewpoint characters instantly, by contrast with the Third-person Limited point of view, which limits narration to what can be known, seen, thought, or judged from a single character's perspective.”

Conclusion:  Am I misinformed? Are there other aspects to “Omniscient” I haven’t grasped yet?

If you state your opinion other than facts will you please include why you feel the way you do on this narrative usage.

Skip
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on May 07, 2009, 11:19:31 AM
This is the first paragraph from "The Writer's Writing Guide:
Point of View."  The link to the site is below.

She explains this better than I could have in just a few minutes and is well worth reading.

"Point of view is the person through whose eyes the reader is seeing the story. Those eyes might belong to a character, or to a non-character narrator (a narrator who isn't in the story). In most fiction, the point of view belongs to one or more characters. In an essay, we generally have the pov (that’s the abbreviation) of a non-character narrator, who is often the author herself. Non-character narrators can also be used in omniscient third person narratives, which I'll discuss in more detail below."


http://www.rachelsimon.com/wg_pov.htm

Skip, early in the story it was clear to me that Matt was able to communicate with animals, both mammals and fowls. Not sure about fish. :)

But until this question, I was unaware that Matt was able to see/know the thoughts of humans beyond what others subconsciously 'know' due to body language, tone of voice and facial expressions.
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: dynodreamer on May 07, 2009, 11:36:02 AM
How timely!? Skip- there just happens to be an article in the May issue of The Writer -4 Myths about point of view [available at quality book stores everywhere]  ...that directly addresses the slippery issues of POV. It would seem to point out that if the transition from head to head is ramped with the right intro, and conveys a sense "I know exactly what I'm doing", to the reader ... you're good to go/ Rules not exactly being set in stone.
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Skip Slocum on May 07, 2009, 12:14:21 PM
Hey Alice I read what she said and it made great sense. I like the analogy of the baton and the proper hand off. That might be the missing element I needed to make it work better.

In the story I start out with brief telepathic connections with Matt and his grandfather, then move to conversations between him and his horse. then have him esedrop on conversations through the ears of animals and so on.
by doing it a little at a time, I'm trying to draw the reader in so they will feel this is normal and logical. also when he has visions of the past or future, the "Omniscient" narrative seems to work great in those spots. however, I suspected I didn't have a firm grasp of the proper way to use it.

Thank you dyno, I'm a little short on spending money for tech books right now but thanks for the heads up.(edit) Yes the intro appears to be the key.
Skip

P.S. ,, I snagged that link to study other stuff too  ;D
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: dynodreamer on May 07, 2009, 12:40:31 PM
No no, just read the mag while you drink in-house Starbucks coffee. [I'm with you all the way on the poverty thing.]
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Skip Slocum on May 07, 2009, 12:51:48 PM
Another good idea  ;D
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Lin on May 07, 2009, 02:05:36 PM
I am using limited 3rd person omniscient viewpoint in "First and Last Outpost"

What I have tried to do is get into the minds of two of my characters at a time.  Stick with them all the way though until perhaps you lose one of them through death.  Then I stay with my original character and her new partner by which I then move into his head.  In the meantime there are some characters whose viewpoint I move into when I need to.  Some characters I choose not to move into their head at all I let my main characters do the descriptions through dialogue or "he felt" or 'he seemed to be"

As long as you move down a double paragraph when you introduce a new character and you are in his/her head it won't cross over into the other character's viewpoints.

Remember each one cannot think what the other character is thinking.  Only the author can do that.

It seems to work well for me and it was suggested I use first person singular for my novel but somehow I just couldnt seem to feel right about it.  First person is closer to the reader than third person but for this book I found limited ovp works fine. I have quite a few characters as the book moves through its story, but I am never writing their viewpoints all at the same time. 

I wouldnt worry too much, there are plenty of published authors out there who have broken all the rules and to be quite honest I would just write your book and when its near completion get someone to read it for you and tell you what they think.  Ask a few people, general public, close and literary friends and take an average based on their comments.  Get a bunch of Beta readers and see what they say.  Not all the crits will be the same.  Take the rough with the smooth and divide it by ten!

Lin x
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Maimi on May 13, 2009, 11:27:42 PM
Go Skip!

You're not alone...just got called out for head hopping the other day (rightly so).  So, I'm getting that a lot has to do with presenting the change.

Thanks dynodreamer for the heads up on the article.  It's time for a cup of the evil bean at the bookstore.
-Maimi
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Hypothesis on May 15, 2009, 08:19:52 PM
When you character is head hopping, does the tone of the work shift to that person/thing? Maybe that's the issue, it doesn't feel quite enough like someone "peeking in" as it does "PoV switch." I don't know, haven't read it!  :P I'm working on a story that has the narrator as a character in the story who gets most of the information second hand, so he seems omniscient because he already knows. But when I get to parts he wasn't there fore, I have to make him delve into other people's memories of the event...and its weird, and hard.
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Skip Slocum on May 15, 2009, 08:23:34 PM
wowzers, I'm having enough trouble with mine, I can see where yours would be even more complex.
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Lin on May 16, 2009, 04:24:51 AM
Im  informed that head hopping takes away the meaning for the reader. What do you think about this?

Lin x
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: ma100 on May 16, 2009, 05:09:41 AM
I find the head hopping the most confusing when you lose who is thinking and seeing what. If I lose touch with the character I get bored because I can't be bothered to read it again to figure it out.
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Skip Slocum on May 16, 2009, 08:25:59 AM
I just found out that if you/ me/ we change point of view, at the very least there should be a break in paragraphs. I have been starting a para- in one characters pov and half way through jumping to another. I think I do it because it is usually durring quiet one-on-one conversations and I see the conversation banter too fast.
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: ma100 on May 16, 2009, 08:35:09 AM
Probably, what we as writers see in our minds is not necessarily what we put down on paper. Because we see it so clearly we expect the reader too as well. ;D
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Skip Slocum on May 16, 2009, 08:38:19 AM
exactly, and I still don't know all the rules, let alone what all the buttons on the keyboard do.  :o
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Lin on May 16, 2009, 09:34:12 AM
Personally I have read so many styles recently.  Novice writers these days press too much importance on point of view and it becomes confusing to the likes of new writers.  I would go with your heart and not other people's heads.  As I said get it written and ask someone more experienced to read it all through when you near the finishing line.  You can always make changes.

If you listen too hard to people like me who have only been writing seriously for four years, you might end up in the loony bin!  Its best to read books on the subject and read other people's novels.  Analyse those novels and learn from them.  I know MWC is a great place to learn from other people's comments, but you can easily obtain the wrong information and become confused.

If it feels good - leave it! Dont try and fix something that isn't broken.  The recent modern novels I have read, there are so many ways to write them and so many styles, I wouldn't worry too much at this stage.  Publishers accept all kinds of fiction these days and you only have to look at the work of Kurt Vonnegut to see that he has turned POV on its head!

If it reads sensibly, go with your heart.

Lin x







Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Skip Slocum on May 16, 2009, 09:57:34 AM
 ;D Deal  ;D
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: ma100 on May 16, 2009, 10:10:42 AM
I found that before I should go breaking rules I should learn what they are. If I don't understand them how can I explain when someone pulls me about it.

Everything I have learnt has come from this site. Yes there is wrong advice given and also advice that is right, but the advice giver has no idea why. That is why I shout for help. You have to identify if the advice is wrong.

For my first 6 months of writing I hadn't a flippin' clue about pov and someone was steering me wrong. It wasn't until I got a pm from someone who explained to me I was taking the wrong advice that my writing improved.

I must have teed off everyone on this site with my silly questions, but if I don't know I ask. :)
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Lin on May 16, 2009, 01:04:28 PM
Oh I agree Ma, without you,  my synopsis wouldnt be as good as it is now! 

Many thanks

Lin x x x
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Hypothesis on May 16, 2009, 10:06:30 PM
Personally I have read so many styles recently.  Novice writers these days press too much importance on point of view and it becomes confusing to the likes of new writers.  I would go with your heart and not other people's heads.  As I said get it written and ask someone more experienced to read it all through when you near the finishing line.  You can always make changes.

If you listen too hard to people like me who have only been writing seriously for four years, you might end up in the loony bin!  Its best to read books on the subject and read other people's novels.  Analyse those novels and learn from them.  I know MWC is a great place to learn from other people's comments, but you can easily obtain the wrong information and become confused.

If it feels good - leave it! Dont try and fix something that isn't broken.  The recent modern novels I have read, there are so many ways to write them and so many styles, I wouldn't worry too much at this stage.  Publishers accept all kinds of fiction these days and you only have to look at the work of Kurt Vonnegut to see that he has turned POV on its head!

If it reads sensibly, go with your heart.

Lin x

Sorry, but this is an excellent piece of advice....I'm saving it. I always have trouble, worrying whether or not I'm "colouring inside the lines" to realize that this is my story....other people are great for helping to stretch out kinks but in the end, I am the author. Doesn't give me an excuse to go bugger off and write your own story, but it does mean that I don't have to adhere to rules all the time. Thank you. :D
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Skip Slocum on May 17, 2009, 12:05:46 AM
I'm nodding.  ;D
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on May 19, 2009, 08:21:53 PM
I agree with much of the advise given. But first it helps to know the rules so that you know when and why you are breaking them.

(which I have to admit, I do, probably too often.)
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Lin on May 20, 2009, 03:46:23 AM
Personally I feel you must get the story out of your head and on to the screen. Start writing.  Other people's comments are very useful indeed but don't  think one person's comment as beng cast in stone.

I suggest what you do is to write the story and ask about ten people to read it and find out as a research exercise what comment is more frequent than any other then make your changes

Get some good Beta readers.  If point of view is coming up time and time again then you must do something about it.  Perhaps most of the comments may say "lacks imagination", then get in there and fix it!

As long as the punctuation, spelling and grammar are good along with a professional presentation of your mss, then you can fix the whole mss later on when your story is written.  ONLY THEN WILL YOU START LEARNING!! It might be the hard way, but this is a method of discovery learning and as a trainer (now retired) I know it allows the learner to have a far deeper understanding of their subject matter.  I much prefer it and its very motivating because of the sense of achievement.

One last piece of advice - go with your heart. 

To add to this post - I realise that Beta readers dont see the mistakes as much as we do.  I have just spotted a huge error in my story - only a couple of lines, and no-one spotted it!!  So try not to worry, as long as you know its right and your drafts keep speaking to you.  Tee hee!!!

Lin x x x x

Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Skip Slocum on May 20, 2009, 06:52:08 AM
I have 209,536 words of first draft written. 20 chapters (about 1/3rd of the story) is ready for the editor. the first five chapters are back and I have completed the corrections on two chapters. I only have the last two or three chapters to write. Its the final battle scene and epilogue. The problem with writing the end is, I have about six different ideas on how I want to end it.

I can almost hear alarm bells going off with several writers when I told you my word count. That's one of the rules I chose not to follow.
This story is primarily for my family, If its good enough for others to enjoy, then it is what it is. I don't expect any publishing house to front any of the printing costs so instead of several books to hold the entire story, I'm going to put it in one saga.
The story starts out with a boy dependant on his grandfather and ends with him holding his grandchild, coming full circle and ending with the child skipping a stone on the same lake he did when the story opened.

I am learning the proper way to move the point of view from one character to another so the story flows smoothly. I am learning to recognize repeated words and or phrases. And a dozen other things that have my editor ready to snatch me bald over.

Right now the most frustrating part is trying to get someone to read the story. I have twenty chapters posted on my blog and fourteen of them have never been opened. I would respect anyone that read everything I posted then told me, "Skip, your story is crap"

I'm in love with the story so my bias won't let me see if its boring, droning or dull.

http://skipsbook.wordpress.com/
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Lin on May 20, 2009, 07:35:13 AM
HI Skip

I had to smile when I read your post.  I dont think the word count is so bad!!  Im on 108 392 and twenty two chapters. BUT I do know that publishers are looking at 100K words these days due to financial costs and being able to put more books on the shelves.

Having said that I am reading a book at the moment, recently published which has 584 pages and god knows how many words.  So out there someone is publishing these books, but I suppose it's all to do with if you have been published before!  One foot in the door so to speak and maybe you have some licence to make it bigger next time!

I know what you mean about finding someone to read your book.  May I suggest you join a professional association, you pay for a year's subscription and they will read your book for you.  They network with agents and publishers and if you do as I am doing - I am going to London to meet with them all soon.

The Romantic Novelists Association is doing this for me and maybe there is one for your genre too.

To quote you Right now the most frustrating part is trying to get someone to read the story. I have twenty chapters posted on my blog and fourteen of them have never been opened.

I personally don't think I want to put my book out on the net at all.  Its a "secret" and when its ready I will search for an agent.

Looking for the right kind of people to read your book, I think you have to look beyond the net and into your circle of friends and people you have met recently who are impressed at your ability to write a novel and WANT to read it out of curiosity.

Eventually you and I could get together and read each others novels.  Not yet through because I am not finished. Did I pass you my guidelines for Beta Readers -  I cant remember????  If not just ask.

It was a little something I sent to my Beta reader last week here in Holland.  She is from Australia and reads a lot of books. Ideal candidate.  Then I got the presenter of Radio Scilly to read it soon and two more coming up.

These people can be found if you know where to look.  You have to get the "right" kind of people.  Nadine Laman knows about this she is very good and has lots of experience with her Beta readers.  You will have seen her on MWC.

All the best Skip     

Lin x

Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Skip Slocum on May 20, 2009, 08:10:43 AM
Thank you Lin, yes you passed the beta questions list to me already. One point you didn't tell was: am I suposs to pay beta readers and if so how much?
A lot of my questions I'm asking is so I'm ready when it's time. Right now the story is still a ways out. The drudgery work is at hand right now.
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Lin on May 20, 2009, 08:41:30 AM
No the beta readers will do it for free.  They are usually impressed that you wrote a book and want to read it with some excitement.  I am giving a bunch of flowers to my readers or a gift.  Don't forget to say thank you.  This is what Nadine told me.

Lin x x x
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: ma100 on May 20, 2009, 11:01:58 AM
Skip another way to do it is to read for others and they reciprocate.
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Lin on May 20, 2009, 11:19:46 AM
Yes Ma that's another way to do it.  Great idea

Tit fer tat!

W've slightly gone off topic here but I think the topic is finished maybe, my kebard is still notwrking propry I have to type slowly and then backtrack to keep putting in the lettrs I mised wht a pain!

So sorry for the erros  Grrrrr!

My son is coming tonight so maybe I will ask him what's wrong.  Bye fr now.

in x x x x x x

Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Amie on June 05, 2009, 07:49:56 AM
Back to the 'rules' discussion: I find that, if people really love what you've written, they never comment on the rules. Or if they do, it's only to say, 'This breaks all the rules, but I like it anyway'.

If someone points out that your writing breaks one of the established rules, it's usually because they didn't like it that much, and are trying to identify why, and to help you by providing the best feedback they can.

By all means go with your heart - but as others have pointed out on this thread, the rules are there for a reason (ie, they are usually consistent with better writing) and it really helps to understand what the rules are before you break them. And to listen to other people's feedback (otherwise, what's the point of asking for it, if you're just going to ignore it and insist that whatever you've written is fine just the way it is, no matter what anyone else says?)
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Lin on June 05, 2009, 09:34:40 AM
I found this thread to be a very interesting discussion and wish to thank everyone who took part.  I hope Skip got what he wanted from it.

Lin x
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: flights_of_fantasy on June 05, 2009, 09:36:10 AM
Quote
I find that, if people really love what you've written, they never comment on the rules. Or if they do, it's only to say, 'This breaks all the rules, but I like it anyway'.

If someone points out that your writing breaks one of the established rules, it's usually because they didn't like it that much, and are trying to identify why, and to help you by providing the best feedback they can.

I think it all depends on the expectations of both the writer and the person reading.

If you give a piece of writing to a friend, and ask them to read it and see what they think, then I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't comment on broken rules. They would concentrate more on the things they liked.

On the Review my Work board, the more issues a piece of writing has, the more comments it tends to receive, because people have more to say. I will admit that I used to find it easier to comment on something if there were issues to be addressed, compared to work that had fewer problems. People here tend to 'read' as writers, so the broken rules stand out as something than needs feedback. Whether it's liked or not doesn't really make a difference.

Actually, if anything, I'm more likely to comment on something I enjoy reading than something I don't, because I want to help make it as good as it can be.

Going back to topic, regardless of which POV method someone uses, you have to use it in a way that allows your reader to submerge themselves into the story. If the POV rules aren't followed, it drags me out of the story while I sit figuring out whose head I'm in. Therefore, a writer owes it to their story to follow the rules of their POV where they can, for the sake of the reader and their connection with your story.

No, it's not worth worrying about when you're half way through writing chapter one. However, it is something people should take seriously when it gets to editing time. I've stopped reading more than one story because the POV (or lack of it) gave me headache.

Then again, everyone is different. No two people can read the same book in the same way. They will both take different things from it.
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Amie on June 05, 2009, 10:02:51 AM
People here tend to 'read' as writers, so the broken rules stand out as something than needs feedback. Whether it's liked or not doesn't really make a difference.

I totally disagree (said with utmost respect, but still). Have you ever yourself read something that you really loved (by which I mean, that you would be willing to pay money to read and would recommend to your friends) and said, "Oh, but you're telling instead of showing there, that's wrong!". I would submit that, if you LOVE a piece of work, and you nitpick about the rules regardless, then you need to step back and get some perspective. The rules are not unbreakable, they are just good guidance - and I think most people see it that way. Whenever I read a piece, I first read it to see if I like it, and THEN apply the rules to see if I can offer any advice for improvement. But if something bowled me over, I wouldn't give a fig for the rules, I'd just say, "I loved it and wouldn't change a thing". Perhaps I'm naive, but I think you'll find most people are the same. And I know that I myself have posted things up that break half a zillion rules, and got feedback (even from the more experienced and critical writers) along the lines of 'Love it, wouldn't change a thing'. And this is before I was a mod, lest you think that makes any difference ;)

Now, if you're talking about something you just like and not love - maybe. But if you only like it and don't love it, then there's probably some room for improvement. In which case those dratted rules might just point you (or rather, the writer) in the right direction ;)
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on June 05, 2009, 10:48:15 AM
I agree with what Amie said, but with one cravat.

Even if I seriously like what I'm reading and come across a bolder in my path; I'll generally stop reading and slip into edit/critique mode. But that may just be me.


(bolder in my path = a big mistake that shakes me out of the story.)
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Amie on June 05, 2009, 12:03:31 PM
Oh yeah, I agree with that. But that sort of thing is exactly that - knocks me out of love to like, so it's a point worth commenting on. I was thinking more of cases where you know something is blatantly breaking the rules, but it doesn't hamper the story in any way in your opinion (or you may even think it adds to the story, or the style). Once it hampers the story (or the telling of the story), of course I'd comment on it. 
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: Skip Slocum on June 05, 2009, 01:30:21 PM
I'm listening, and learning so please don't stop, this is a great discussion.  ;D
Title: Re: Third-person omniscient narrative…..instructional debate
Post by: flights_of_fantasy on June 06, 2009, 02:35:36 AM
But that sort of thing is exactly that - knocks me out of love to like, so it's a point worth commenting on.
Amie,

One of the reasons why I commented in the first place was that I disagreed (respectfully, of course  ;)) with your idea that if people criticise something then they can't love it.

I see now, from reading your other replies, that we're just looking at things from two different perspectives. You say that if you see something that needs commenting on, it knocks you out of love to like. That's how you think, and I can't argue with you on that. All I do want to say is that not everyone looks at things as you do.

Perhaps I'm alone in thinking how I do? If so, I'm fine with that. I can love a piece of writing, but that won't stop me commenting on a problem if I see it. It doesn't make me love it any less. I can love a story, even with faults.

If it makes you feel any better, just think of me as a lunatic with strange ideas.  ;D