If you enjoyed the excerpt about omniscient POV last week from the book 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction, we have great news. We have a Part II! I’m in possession of an advance reader copy of this book, and from the bits I’ve read, I have to say, I’m captivated!
What sets this book apart is not just the five editors who together give a very round view of twelve writing sore spots, but the way they show before-and-after texts to illustrate what they really mean.
This excerpt is written by C.S. Lakin and digs even deeper into omniscient POV. And if you didn’t win the giveaway drawing last week … we’re doing it again! (Details at the end of the post.)
Subjective Omniscient POV
Subjective omniscient POV features a narrator with a strong voice who can show the internal thoughts of the characters within the scene. An omniscient narrator can hop around into heads and go where he wants. And it can be very effective to have that narrator react to the thoughts and feelings of the other characters.
This is a fairly uncommon POV, but it can be done well and powerfully. Such a narrator has his or her own voice, and everything that is seen, felt, and experienced by the characters gets filtered through this narrator’s mind and personality.
Sound confusing? It can be. That’s one reason it’s rarely used. It is also a bit tricky to do well. Sure, it limits the POV violations—because when you’re omniscient, you can know anything and everything. But that doesn’t make it a great default POV for your story.
Unless it serves your premise specifically to have an omniscient narrator with a unique storytelling voice, don’t use this POV. It can be imposing and distracting to have this “main character” controlling the story. But again, when it’s used well and to good purpose, it can be terrific.
Here’s one way the passage from last week’s post could convey a subjective omniscient POV:
Diane Chandler stood on the ledge of an eighth-floor office windowsill, her eyes closed and her hands gripping the wrought-iron railing that framed the window. She inched out on high heels. Wind whipped at her, making her wobble.
Her life was in shambles, and she knew it. But she saw no other option. Even though her death was going to destroy more lives, at this moment Diane Chandler only cared about one thing—ending her pain. She had extorted money from her company and gotten caught. It had been foolish for her to think her coworker John wouldn’t have ratted to the boss. She’d always been kind of naïve that way. Quick to ignore the signs. Thinking everyone was honest and upstanding. Like she had been. Once upon a time. If only someone had pointed that out to her years ago.
Moments passed as the traffic below moved in fits and starts.
“Wait!” A man’s voice came from behind her, from inside the office. Ronald Moore, her boss.
Seeing Diane on the ledge came as a shock. But he had to stop her. He couldn’t tell her how he really felt, how he didn’t care about the money she took. He knew the trouble she was in, her dark and troubled past. Her criminal record she failed to disclose on her application. He didn’t care about any of that. He loved her. Well, maybe he should have told her. That might have changed everything. Moore knew, though, it was too late. His heart ached. He always was a sucker for “bad” women.
Diane kept her eyes closed, her head tipped back. She did not turn around.
“Diane, please. We’ll work this out. You don’t have to do this.”
Diane shook her head, not daring to turn to look at him. He didn’t understand. Couldn’t understand. He could sweet-talk her all he wanted. She’d still go to jail.
Sadly, leaving Angela with her sister, Judy, was not going to work, but Diane couldn’t know that in this moment. In this moment, her sister was on the Interstate, talking on her cell phone to her boyfriend, and was about to get smashed by a truck veering across the divider due to the driver having a seizure. Angela was facing a life in the Child Welfare system. But would Diane have stepped off that ledge had she known? Who’s to say?
Moore pleaded. “Listen, just listen. Don’t move. Just take my hand—”
She loosened her grip on the railing and sucked in a breath. Then, to Moore’s shock, she stepped out into the air. Oh well, he tried. He would suffer many years of nightmares of this moment—of reaching out and just missing her fingertips. But in time, he would get over her. Like all the others that had slipped through his hands . . .
There are lots of ways I could have written this, including more or less of Diane’s subjective thoughts and feelings, adding more of Moore’s, going into their past. Or I could have amplified the narrator’s subjective voice—more opinions, more personality. Again, it all depends on the premise and plot of your story.
Ask: Does my story need a narrator? If so, why and who? The narrator is palpably present in such a story, and so needs to serve a purpose in being there. He may show up in the story at some point as a visible character, or he may stay invisible—heard, not seen.
Using omniscient POV can be a lot of fun, but watch out for traps—especially the tendency to use excessive telling instead of showing.
In Conclusion . . .
Before you start to write a scene, think through your objective. Consider what key plot points you plan to reveal and how they would best be revealed and by whom. Then write your scene sticking faithfully to that character’s POV.
You may decide you want to try your hand at omniscient POV. It’s your story, so you get to choose. But choose wisely so you can tell the best story possible, and consider what’s common for the genre you are writing in. Then follow the POV rules so you don’t get ticketed for egregious violations!
The Book Giveaway
Susanne and her fellow author/editors have one more free copy of 5 Editors Tackle the Twelve Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing for our readers – an ebook edition, any format. To enter the drawing, just scroll down and leave a comment in answer to this question: What POV violation really bugs you when you read a novel? We’ll pick a winner based on our favorite answer! The drawing will end on Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. CST. Good luck!
About the Author
C. S. Lakin is the author of sixteen novels and five writing craft books. Her award-winning blog Live Write Thrive gives tips and writing instruction for both fiction and nonfiction writers, and her Writer’s Toolbox series gives fiction writers everything they need to know to create compelling, solid stories.
The newest release—5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing—is available here and features more than sixty detailed Before and After examples of flawed and corrected passages to help authors learn to spot flaws in their writing.
About Her Book
Fiction writers often struggle to improve their craft. And the biggest challenge comes from the inability to see what isn’t working. The prose feels off. The scene isn’t gelling. The dialogue sounds stilted or clunky. But they don’t know why or how to fix it.
This book lays it all out.
5 Editors Tackle the Twelve Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing demonstrates the deadly dozen pitfalls on the road to a strong story, along with revisions that show writers exactly how to avoid novel failure. Buy it on Amazon!