Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you today.
One thing I enjoy about writing for Story Empire is that I also learn new things. Several weeks ago, when I wrote a post about changing literary styles, I quoted from a book in which the author apparently tried to write from an omniscient point of view. However, it was distracting and read more like head-hopping.
Reader Jessica Bakers commented that she had struggled to understand omniscient POV. She asked if there is truly is such a thing or a case of multiple points of view with head-hopping.
I didn’t feel qualified to answer, but I decided to research the subject.
Staci and I were discussing this one day, and she summed it up nicely.
“Head-hopping shows the scene from a character point of view and jumps from one to another. Omniscient is like God looking down and telling us everything, even things none of the characters could know.”
Author use of omniscient point of view used to be more commonplace. Consider the opening line of this classic.
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…”
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
And how many of us read stories that began with “Once upon a time…?”
In both cases, the narrator is telling the story. But we all know that too much telling and not enough showing makes for a boring book. Inundating readers with a ton of backstory is a turnoff.
Now let’s look at a few examples from more recent publications.
“No one was really surprised when it happened, not really, not at the subconscious level where savage things grow.”
(Carrie by Stephen King.)
King tells us something is about to happen, but not what it is.
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.”
(Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston)
I found Hurstan’s narration more subtle, but it’s definitely from a narrator’s point of view.
But take a look at this example.
“But when Mimir was not with him, Hoenir seemed unable to come to a decision, and the Vanir soon tired of this. They took their revenge, not on Hoenir but on Mimir: they cut off Mimir’s head and sent it to Odin. Odin was not angry.”
(Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman)
Would you read something like that? I wouldn’t. To me, that is head-hopping at its
finest worst. Maybe a severe case of ADHD.
As a writer, I can’t see myself using omniscient point of view like Gaiman. What about you? Would you try it? What’s your take on it as a reader? Please share in the comments.