POV Breakdown: Omniscient

Last in this series, the omniscient viewpoint has also been called a “God’s eye view.” In the 19th century, when novels were gaining in popularity, the masses didn’t travel as much as people today. Much of the world might remain unknown to these readers were it not for lengthy descriptions of settings, people and things. So writers wrote long meandering descriptions of settings, clothing and objects.
Writing Tip for Today: Today, however, the omniscient POV has largely fallen out of favor. Readers demand an intimate knowledge of a character and generally aren’t content to view stories from afar. You can spot omniscient POV when a writer shifts POV suddenly, without warning. We’re securely in one character’s POV, and then suddenly exposed to a different character’s thoughts and emotions. Other tips about omniscient POV:

  • A Penny for Your Thoughts. The reader cannot see into any thoughts or the reader can see into all thoughts. While being able to learn all characters’ thoughts or emotions might seem a good thing on the surface, its effect is often to weaken reader sympathies, because readers aren’t rooting for any one character. The bond a reader makes with a viewpoint character is essential in carrying the reader forward in the story.
  • Mixed Up Characters. By knowing all the characters’ thoughts and/or emotions, readers might become confused more easily. The reader is forced to decide who’s important, who’s got the most to lose, who’s the real “main” character, and sometimes, even who’s speaking.
  • Where’s the Camera? In omniscient POV, the camera is the “eye in the sky.” This means it’s much harder to bring a close up into the action. Just like with photography, with a panoramic or vista view it’s great for wide angle shots, but poor for close-ups. Third person helps bring the camera closer, and first person make the character and the reader become the camera.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *