Creative Writing & A God-like Or Omniscient Point Of View

Posted at 20:02pm on 15th January 2011

Last week I wrote an article about the importance of Point of View (POV) if you’re planning on writing and publishing a book, and a reader took me up on what I’d said.  An aspiring author, he is in the process of writing his first book, he said, and he’s doing so from a God-perspective.  So I thought further discussion on this topic wouldn’t go amiss.  What, for instance, is a God-like perspective?

OMNISCIENT POINT OF VIEW

A God-perspective, as its name suggests, is actually an omniscient point of view.  Omniscient means “all-seeing”.

Let me say, immediately, that this is a legitimate point of view and has been used to good effect in many Victorian novels and some modern books.  However, it is not always easy to achieve correctly and, unless done extremely well, may not meet with favour with agents and editors, especially if you are previously unpublished.

This point of view means that the narrator of your book knows everything that’s going on.  Whilst this is often the preferred mode for many aspiring authors because it is reminiscent of Once upon a time children’s story books, it does have its rules, advantages and drawbacks.

Rules:

As with all points of view, you – the author of the book – must ensure that the choice you make is the one you stick with throughout the book, or you may confuse your readers.

Advantages:

  1. It’s easy to write.
  2. It can add to the suspense/expectation of the reader.
  3. The thoughts, emotions and senses (touch, taste, hearing,  sight and smell) of all characters may be known throughout.

Disadvantages:

  1. It’s easy to muddle up who’s who.
  2. It can detract from the tension of the plot by allowing the reader to know too much.
  3. It distances the reader from the characters.

Let’s unpack the first point above.

EASY TO WRITE / EASY TO CONFUSE

I’ve already said that it’s probably the easiest and most natural way for most aspiring authors to begin, because of their childhood memories of story.  The reverse of that, however, is that it’s also easy to jump from one character to another, in a way that’s muddling to your reader.

Consider the following, which appears in a manuscript I’ve been asked to read and analyse:  They had been a happy family.  The parents, as teachers with a lot of experience of other people’s children, had made every effort to ensure that their own would be happy and well balanced but also reach their full potential.

The first sentence is written from an omniscient point of view.  This means that being a happy family:

  • may be the opinion of neither the parents nor the children
  • it may be the opinion of one or other
  • or it may be a shared opinion.

As readers, we don’t know.  All we do know is that this is an observation made by an off-the page narrator.  (I’ll explain more about that in another article.)

MUDDLED POINT OF VIEW: WHICH CHARACTER?

It’s the second sentence that’s muddled.  I’ve underlined The parents to show that they are the subject of the sentence.  The clause that follows tells the reader what the parents are (teachers) and the remainder of the sentence shows who they are i.e. something about their character (experienced and caring).

So far so good.  We know that the parents had made every effort to ensure that their own would be happy.  This first their refers back to the parents, because they are the subject of the sentence.  Their in this instance indicates the parents’ ownership: i.e. this is the “children of the parents” that we’re talking about.

However, the second their in the same sentence refers to the children, themselves.  Here it is the children’s ownership that’s referred to: “the potential of the children” not the potential of the parents.

Do you see how confusing it can be?  Grammatically, that sentence is faulty.  More importantly, it will not be looked upon kindly by an editor or an agent, and it is makes your writing unclear to your readers.

Do you still want to write your book from an omniscient point of view?  Can you defer making a decision until Part 2 of this article, when I’ll take a look at the second set of benefits and drawbacks?  Hope so!  See you then.

RELATED CATEGORIES: For further reading, click links below

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