Slashing the Myths About Omniscient Viewpoint

I’m a little behind this week — I hopped over to Wisconsin for my grandmother’s memorial this weekend and am playing catch up, though I figure that’ll be at least another week.  Next weekend is a con!

Meanwhile back in the land of politicians, it’s about time for another look at omniscient viewpoint.  When I first began experimenting with it, I was absolutely amazed at the myths circulating on the internet, and even in the craft books.  It was like everyone was ganging up against the viewpoint.  What’d it do to them?

No doubt some it is people passing along information without really understanding what they were talking about — the internet is really bad at that.

Must be suffering from jet lag since I just typed viewpint.  Oh, dear.

So let’s get the three biggest myths out of the way before the pints catch up with me:

No one uses it any more.

This one astounds me.  If omniscient viewpoint is no longer being used at all, then why is everyone writing about it to say that it’s no longer being used?!  The fact is that you can find books in omniscient viewpoint that have been published in the last year on the bookshelf.  Like this one I saw The Tombs at Target today.

Omniscient Viewpoint is multiple viewpoints.

Yup.  Saw this one in a craft book.  It kind of ruined the credibility of the author, but I’ve seen writers come onto message boards and proclaim the same thing.  * Sigh * Omniscient is an all-seeing narrator who tells the story — one narrator.  Where writers get confused is that they don’t understand about the single narrator because they keep thinking character viewpoint.  So they see the narrator dip into the heads of the characters, and suddenly, omniscient viewpoint is interpreted as “multiple viewpoints.”  Check out Writing Excuses’s podcast for a discussion on this.

Omniscient is the head hopping viewpoint.

One of the first things I asked myself when I started writing in omniscient viewpoint was what was the difference between it and head hopping.  Because I had read the viewpoint and it definitely wasn’t anything like critiquing a story where it headhopped enough to make me feel like I was going to get whiplash.  Since omniscient viewpoint is only one viewpoint, it doesn’t head hop.  However, writers who think of it as multiple viewpoints end up head hopping when trying to write it.  Rebecca LuElla Miller has a post with some really great examples of headhopping versus omniscient viewpoint.

Okay, I still don’t have any explanation as to why people keep ganging up on the viewpoint.  But back to the pints.  If you were to bottle a viewpoint in a pint, what would you call it?

Linda Adams, Soldier, Storyteller.

I have an article on Vision: A Resource for Writers on Critiquing for Omniscient Viewpoint.  No pints were involved in the making of the article.

4 thoughts on “Slashing the Myths About Omniscient Viewpoint

  1. Thanks for the link, Linda. I suspect people gang up against omniscient POV because it is hard to do well. A lot of writing books warn beginners away from it, but I think that gets translated, not as “Beware, this is hard,” but as “Stay away, this is bad.” That’s my theory anyway.



    1. Becky, it seems like there’s a lot of writing advice that starts out with “Don’t try — it’s too hard.” What’s wrong with saying, “Learn how to do it well” instead of saying, “There is no try. Only do not.” (hopefully that’s not a too bad Yoda impression!).


      1. Agree (regardless of the level of succes you achieved with your Yoda impression. 😀 )

        But apparently in today’s society, we want instant success, so this larnin’ to do well thang is just getting in the way. 😉

        And no, that was not my attempt at Yoda.



  2. Pingback: The Beauty of Omniscient Viewpoint | Linda Adams

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