To continue my series on the point of point of view lets take a look at the use of the third person omniscient POV. In previous posts we discussed the pros and cons of using the first person, now lets consider the use of third person.
There are multiple types of third person POV including:
**Note: There’s also Third Person Objective or Dramatic POV. But I’m going to talk about that later in another post.
Were going to focus on the omniscient POV for this post, which is when the author is “God-like” and can see everything that is happening and is no longer limited to the POV of a single character. Some distinct advantages to this type of point-of-view include:
Five Advantages of the 3rd Person Omniscient POV:
1) It’s Traditional – Once upon a time there was a… Most of the stories we were told as children were created in a third person point of view. There was a narrator and he/she told the story. Therefore it seems very natural to hear a story told in the third person. It harkens back to our deepest concepts of storytelling.
2) Getting to Know Multiple Characters – Third Person Omniscient POV allows the author the freedom to get out of the “claustrophobia” of a single POV and expand our scope. An omniscient POV is able to get inside the minds of multiple characters and delve deeper into emotions and relationships. We move away from a limited filter of a story (remember everyone will tell the events of a story differently) and are able to see how multiple characters react/interpret the events. John Gardner (an advocate for the omniscient POV) says: “In the authorial omniscient, the writer speaks as, in effect, God. He sees into all his characters’ hearts and minds, presents all positions with justice and detachment, occasionally dips into the third person subjective to give the reader an immediate sense of why the character feels as he does, but reserves to himself the right to judge.” (The Art of Fiction).
3) Authorial Voice – One of the draw backs of first person POV is that the voice of the text is the voice of the character. Using the third person, however, allows the authors voice to take the front seat. Marion Dane Bauer says: “There are no limits to your language in third person. You can write about a three-year-old or about a lion in your own language, not theirs. You don’t have to make your story sound as though someone other than you is telling it.” (What’s Your Story?). In effect, the narrator’s voice becomes the voice of the story. The author now has more freedom in crafting that narrative voice.
4) Epic Storytelling – Omniscience seems a natural choice for stories of an epic nature. If you are telling a story with lots of characters, that spans many years, covers many lands/areas, the omniscient POV is going to be your friend. Limited POV (first person, third limited/subjective) is — well — limiting. Gardner states that other points of view “achieve little grandeur” outside of the omniscient POV. Limited perspectives only allow for certain threads of a story to be told, and from particular filters and opinions. An omniscient POV can broaden the scope of a story. It’s perfect for grand and fantastical adventures like The Lord of the Rings.
5) Action! Action! Action! - The third person really helps the writer to get into the action. The third person creates more distance from the character and his/her thoughts. Therefore the writer can focus on the actions of the character. First person POV can become a bit of a “tell-fest” (tell, tell, tell), but third person really puts the action back into the scenes. If you struggle with showing instead of telling, maybe changing up the POV could help. Marion Dane Bauer agrees in her book What’s Your Story wherein she states: “In the third person, most writers, even beginning writers, have little difficulty moving directly into action.”
Do you write in the third person omniscient? Why? Are there other advantages that you’ve found? Or have you avoided the omniscient POV? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Bauer, Marion Dane. What’s Your Story: A Young Person’s Guide to Writing Fiction. New York: Clarion Books, 1992. Print.
Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction. New York:Vintage Books, 1983. Print.