HOW NOT TO WRITE IN THIRD PERSON OMNISCIENT
What is third-person omniscient (TPO)? Well, it is a very unique style where the writer has the privilege of knowing everything about the world that has been created. The reader can actually listen to the thoughts of as many characters as the writer deems necessary.
There are some drawbacks to TPO. Just because the author knows everything, there still can be some omniscient violations. It’s not a good practice to switch the POV from several different characters within the same scene. Why? Simply put, it’s hard to follow, and the emotions of the characters are not experienced as fully.
Jacob knew that Tina was holding something back, but he couldn’t tell what it was. Tina looked away from him so that she didn’t have to tell him that she was cheating on him.
You can see the emotions are narrated instead of experienced. Now, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with his approach if you want to take a fully narrative POV which means that you don’t get the privilege of knowing characters’ thoughts. But we are sticking primarily with the POV where thoughts can be known. Because of that, we have to be clever in how we get our ideas across to the reader.
Jacob knew that Tina was holding something back, but he couldn’t tell what it was. Her shifty eyes and the way that she pushed her hair back was a clear indication that she was nervous, but about what, he wasn’t sure. She had already cheated on him once before, and his heart couldn’t take another dagger.
See how you get the chance to care more about Jacob in this example. I’m not playing POV hopscotch where I skip from one character’s head to the next character’s. But this is more like character scuba diving, where we can actually view the depths of Jacob’s soul. Keeping this in mind can make for a powerful TPO experience.
With TPO, the reader gets to feel compassion and hatred on a deeper level for each character. Does that mean that TPO is the POV to choose. Of course not. It certainly depends on how you want your story to be told. But if you choose TPO, then it should be used to its fullest potential.
Here’s the same scene from Tina’s POV.
Tina pushed her hair back and swallowed hard. She didn’t want it to happen again, but she always seemed to get herself into situations that she couldn’t get out of. If she told him, she’d break his heart…again.
See how the tension can come from her refusing to admit to herself what she did because of her shame. This gives the reader some compassion for Tina that Jacob might not offer to her. These TOP privileges can make for a very dynamic novel!
Thanks for the tips! I, like most people I suppose, have a tendency to head hop. Doing some writing currently in first person POV, but I find even with that, I’m trying to jump heads occasionally.
Thanks, inksweatandfears. It’s tough when you, as the author, know what everyone’s thinking. But trying to reveal that through the characters is tough.
Thanks for the advice. Have never dared write in TPO, but this post definitely helps me understand it.
Thanks, J. C. TPO is tough because there’s a lot to keep up with, but FP is, in my opinion, just as difficult. We writers have our work cut out for us.
The whole of my 1st novel is written in TPO but I’ve made sure the shift is per chapter. The couple of people who have read it so far say its like watching a film lol….I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not lol
Lol. Watching a film may not be a bad thing haha. Actually that’s a pretty good compliment because the breaks in POV must be pretty succint.
Well that’s good then lol
Well said! I tend to write one character and stick with them, but I admit the temptation to explore other characters is always there. Thanks for sharing!
No problem, Adriana! And thanks!