Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Omniscient

And for Okkervil River

So far I've only written two books, both only as far as the first draft. That's a caveat emptor for you so you understand, I know nothing and my non-knowledge I'm passing on to you.

My first book, Death Hires an Assistant is in the omniscient third person voice. The narrator knows things that no one else in the story knows. It knows what people are thinking, what they are doing when they're alone in the bathroom, what is just about to happen and what happened 100 years ago. Anything you want the reader to know can be delivered (or withheld until the right time) by the omniscient narrator.

The cool thing about Omni (if I may be so bold) is that you can have this narrator just blend into the background, giving information in an unbiased way. This 'voice' is really a 'non-voice', purely the engine for delivering information - putting you in the scene so to speak. Or, you can make Omni seem like another character, with a style of speaking, a point of view and definite opinions. This is what I liked about using Omni for Death Hires an Assistant, which is about - you'll be shocked, I know - Death hiring someone to help him out on his rounds. It's a comedy, of course, and in the style of Terry Prtachett and Christopher Moore, a funny Omni works well for telling the reader ridiculous things.

For my current WIP, BookEnd, I decided to hobble myself with first person. Why? Because it seems so easy at first and I wanted to try it out. Friends, don't be fooled. It's not easy, it's hard. You are stuck in the head of your MC. You can't get out and find out what someone else is thinking unless they tell you, or you guess from their body language. Right about three fours in I felt like I'd painted myself into a corner.  But I think, for the right book first person is the right way to go. For my MC Fin, he's struggling to find himself and he's pretty damn self centered so it makes sense that the book is all from his point of view. But I have to work hard to give the reader hints about the wider world, hoping they'll find those clues even when Fin remains clueless. It's hard but the restriction of first person is kind of exhilarating.

I found a cool blog that had a post about Omni not too long ago. Ingrid's Notes. Check it out.

So, what view do you write in (person/voice etc.) and why?


  1. For a novel I always pick third person with a limited view and past tense. Why? It's what my genre prefers.

    I've written some short stories in first person. It's depended on what I wanted to say. Still, I try to stick to 3rd person. Same reason as above.


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