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tko
11-28-2010, 09:48 AM
OK, I'm proof reading and I notice I've done something I'm not sure of. At the start of a chapter I may set the scene using omniscient POV. After a paragraph or so of description, I get into someone's head using 3rd person POV.

Imagine you have a bird's eye view of a house. You describe it, fly in through a doorway, describe the room, describe a person, and end up in their head, staying there for the remainder of the scene.

As long as you don't jump out again, is this terrible? I think I've seen this done before, maybe quite a lot. Another example, maybe you want to describe the beat and feel of a city before entering your character's head.

I think I do this 2-3 times out of 50+ chapters.

Arik_the_Red
11-28-2010, 09:57 AM
Well, interesting you bring this question up, because you posted it just as I was contemplating the subject and wanting to ask about it. My current work does bounce between Omni and 3rd Person.... My story seems to demand a need for both.

amergina
11-28-2010, 10:00 AM
Omni is just another mode of third person (formally called third person omniscient). It's fine, in omni, to swoop down into a character's head. You're not switching narrative modes, just focusing the view.

Edited to add:

That is, there is no such thing as switching from omniscient to third. You're already *in* third. You're simply limiting the omniscient viewpoint temporarily. In omni, the viewpoint focus will widen back out when it needs to. You can use some of the same techniques that you might use in third limited for the time you're swooping in, but it's not like you're switching narrative modes.

Arik_the_Red
11-28-2010, 10:14 AM
Yeah, that is sort of what I thought. When one of my critics in the SYW section made statements about changing views it really threw me for a loop because I just didn't grasp the problem with the so-called switches... I know of many writings that have done the same thing very well.

amergina
11-28-2010, 10:25 AM
Yeah, that is sort of what I thought. When one of my critics in the SYW section made statements about changing views it really threw me for a loop because I just didn't grasp the problem with the so-called switches... I know of many writings that have done the same thing very well.

One of the tricks with omni is that you need to let the reader know pretty quickly that you're writing in omni (by introducing your omni narrative voice). Since 3rd person limited is very popular right now, most people assume that a 3rd person POV is 3rd limited and get confused when it isn't.

leahzero
11-28-2010, 11:25 AM
Yep, you're fine. I write primarily in third-person limited and use this technique all the time to set the scene for the POV character. As long as the "omni" description is something the POV character has experienced, or reasonably could experience, it's not disorienting.

What would be disorienting is revealing something the POV character doesn't know yet, or can't know: e.g., a dead body hidden under the floorboards. But even then, you can play with the "focal distance" between your omni viewpoint and the zoomed-in limited-third viewpoint. It's commonly used to do authorial foreshadowing in third-person limited: e.g., "Jack opened the door. He was about to discover what lay under the floorboards."

leahzero
11-28-2010, 11:29 AM
One of the tricks with omni is that you need to let the reader know pretty quickly that you're writing in omni (by introducing your omni narrative voice). Since 3rd person limited is very popular right now, most people assume that a 3rd person POV is 3rd limited and get confused when it isn't.

Definitely. But what tko seems to be talking about is starting "zoomed out," omnisciently looking at a scene (e.g. describing a city street scene, but without actually entering the heads of any characters), and then zooming in to third-person limited and staying with one character until the next POV change.

RobJ
11-28-2010, 12:24 PM
One of the tricks with omni is that you need to let the reader know pretty quickly that you're writing in omni (by introducing your omni narrative voice). Since 3rd person limited is very popular right now, most people assume that a 3rd person POV is 3rd limited and get confused when it isn't.
What makes you think that most people would be confused by this, or even that they assume 3rd person limited?

amergina
11-28-2010, 08:02 PM
What makes you think that most people would be confused by this, or even that they assume 3rd person limited?

I should have put "It's been my experience that in a critique group or situation..." in front of what I've said.

amergina
11-28-2010, 08:15 PM
Definitely. But what tko seems to be talking about is starting "zoomed out," omnisciently looking at a scene (e.g. describing a city street scene, but without actually entering the heads of any characters), and then zooming in to third-person limited and staying with one character until the next POV change.

Yeah, I was half answering Arik's post, too.

My own personal preference would be not to use omni if all you're using it for is to describe the setting like a movie or TV scene shot of a city to orient the reader. Omni is so much more rich a narrative mode than that.

Though, like you said, the technique can be done in third limited by drawing on what the character knows about his or her town. Kind of like:

Pittsburgh. City of hills. Right now, Ann hated those hills even more than normal, as she rolled ever more quickly down Negley, right into rush hour traffic on Fifth Avenue. She stood on her breaks. Nothing. At least, she thought, Pittsburgh had good hospitals.

But that's not really omni.

backslashbaby
11-28-2010, 11:07 PM
I think of it as "camera-view" 3rd rather than omni, and I do like it when an author uses it to set a scene in 3rd limited. I think it can work very nicely. Don't be sliding into that all willy-nilly, though :)