Monday, 19 December 2016

Writer's Viewpoint - Omniscient and Limited Omniscient

How many angles can you work with? Photo copyright Janet Cameron

One of the most important decisions a writer must make when approaching a new work of fiction is that of viewpoint. If you feel you would like to write from an omniscient viewpoint perspective, then you have a few more angles to consider. It might be a good idea to play around with your first chapter by trying out a few different methods to see what works best. At least then you can make an informed decision.
Omniscient Viewpoint

In this third person viewpoint, the author and/or narrator knows everything that goes on in all the characters’ minds, all their thoughts, plans, ideas and motives. This viewpoint has a clear picture of what’s being plotted from every angle.
The problem is that the focus is constantly shifting and this can make it difficult for the reader to identify with and warm to a character. Most readers are looking for a character, or a few characters that they can root for, or at least feel concerned about. What happens to the character(s) must matter to the reader, otherwise they won’t want to read on and discover the outcome of the story.
In addition, you need a very complicated mind-map to cope with this all-encompassing omniscient viewpoint. If you feel this method is for you, extend your synopsis into a comprehensive chapter-by-chapter outline so you don’t lose track.
Limited Omniscient Viewpoint
This viewpoint is more manageable for most authors. You can select certain characters, say the main protagonist and a couple of others, and they become your "viewpoint characters." This allows both you and the reader intimacy with two, three or four characters. Other characters who are necessary for the forward movement of the plot can be lightly drawn, or only mentioned briefly in passing.
Apart from allowing the reader to identify with the characters and begin to care about them, this must also help the writer. If you become attached to certain of your characters and want them to succeed, this will be apparent in your writing and will be an inspiration for your readers. The enjoyment becomes a two-way process.
Limited Omniscient with Single Viewpoint
An extreme form of limited omniscient is the single viewpoint, which is different from the first person subjective viewpoint because it is narrated in the third person. Like the first person subjective, the limited omnscient with single viewpoint is also subjective. This is a difficult viewpoint to write from, especially for a beginner.
A novel or story told in the first person subjective will be told by one central character/narrator from the “I” viewpoint. All other characters can only be known through the narrative of this central protagonist in the story.
A novel or story told in the limited omniscient with single viewpoint will be told in the third person, ie. from the 'he/she/they' viewpoint, except that it is a single viewpoint, in other words it focuses on just one character's perceptions. Therefore, the same limitation occurs as in the first person subjective viewpoint. Because it is only a single viewpoint, all other characters can only be known through the narrator, who is simply the teller of the tale, the author.
Own work, training and observation
The Creative Writing Coursebook, ed. Julia Bell & Paul Magrs, MacMillan, 2001

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