Omniscient Point of View–The Golden Compass

Dropping in with a look at another book that’s done in omniscient point of view (OPOV), The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.   This is a story about a destiny for the main character that lies in her ignorance of her role, and is one of a series.   If you search for interviews with the author, he often discusses using OPOV for the story like in this interview from the Guardian.

‘I’d never written in that tone before. It was sombre, it was cold, and there was a sense of spaciousness. I much prefer to be the omniscient narrator, which is part of the old fairytale tradition and the 19th-century novel tradition: the thing Modernism got away from. Suddenly I had enormous freedom. I didn’t expect that. You see, I’m not a fantasy fan. I’m uneasy to think I write fantasy.’

He notes also that he found his voice with OPOV.  In the story with Lyra, the OPOV is wonderful and magical–it brings a comforting sense of the story that could not be done in third point of view.  I particularly like the way the narrator handles the descriptions of the people and places–they’re vivid and distinctive and include details that we probably wouldn’t see if it came from another point of view.  Other points of view are limited to what the viewpoint character knows, but in OPOV, the narrator doesn’t have this limitation (both a plus and a minus).

I’ve also run across comments from other writers stating that Pullman does a lot of telling.  This particular comment turns up a lot for OPOV writers because the narrator is telling us the story.  Despite the “show vs. tell” guideline, there isn’t anything wrong with this–it’s a merely a different techique and approach in writing a story.

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