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While I was soul-searching and reading about writing the mystery genre, I discovered several explanations of third-person omniscient pov.
The pros of third-person omniscient pov:
- Narrator knows all: which is limited only by the pacing of shared information over time
- The use of summaries, transitions and bits of telling are acceptable and encourage to maintain reasonable word count
- Conflict shows each character’s deepest expressible traits during a scene or dramatic moment.
- Small spurts of backstory—personal or worldwide—can introduce or quickly explain character behavior and social climate within scene.
- The biggest advantage of the objective point of view is it allows the reader to make up their own mind about the unfolding events within the story.
- The lack of connection and sympathy for the characters because inner thoughts are used sparingly if at all.
- Depends completely on descriptions of body language, dialogue, and reactions to concrete details to express each character’s emotional state.
Other Cons and their solutions:
- Head hopping an be avoided by sticking to the narrator’s pov.
- Info dumps can be avoided by using using restraint when including transitions, backstories, and summaries. Less is more.
- Psychic characters. Writers must remember that the narrator knows all—not the players.
Objective vs Subjective
Objective (dramatic) third-person omniscient pov is more of a fly on the wall narration. Think of watching TV or a movie. The narrator’s voice is nonexistent. Character’s emotional state is shown through stage direction, body language, concrete details, foreshadowing, flashbacks, and dialogue. No internal thoughts are shared. Emotionally charged words like felt/assumed or angry/sad are avoided.
Therefore, the reader has to determine what each character is feeling and thinking through observation alone.
Subjective point of view has a strong narrative voice. It is intrusive and can be anyone: a child, pet, ghost, etc. The whole story is filtered through the narrator’s tone, attitude and the judgment of the players.
There is less distance, because it is possible for the reader get close to and/or sympathize with the narrator. Especially when done with a slice of comedy.
Omniscient vs Limited pov
Although both are similar enough to be used (almost) the same way during a dialogue heavy scene, they have quite different advantages.
Third Person Omniscient’s descriptors are slightly different in a tell-y kind of way. They can simply state what kind of person a character is: weak but honest, harsh and cruel. It allows for quick explanations. The showing is focused on body language, dialogue, and reactions to concrete details.
Third Person Limited has more show-y descriptors. They are the observations of the protagonist and reflect as much about the person sharing as it does about the character being described. Inner thoughts are deep and limited to the observer comments.
Why consider using omniscient pov at all?
Plot driven stories aren’t completely dependent on the reader-character connection. Depending on the scope of the story your trying to tell, it may help with an unacceptably large word count. Summaries and transitions allow the reader to traverse time and space quickly and easily. It also allows the reader to engage with the story without getting confused or lost in its enormity.
Is there anything I’ve missed? Please share, I’m glad to learn more.