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Thread: 1st POV Omni

  1. #1
    Soaking up information. L.Blake's Avatar
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    1st POV Omni

    I would rather write in 1st POV, but I tend to have one character who knows it all, even when not there. Would reading 1st omni be confusing and bothersome.

    I can read it and be fine, but I'm WHACK

    L.

  2. #2
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    1st Omni can only happen with a supernatural element. The character has to be a deity, or Death (like in The Book Thief), or a telepath with a reason to read minds constantly.

    Regular people CAN'T know what's going on in everyone's head at all times, even if they're recounting events that have already happened.
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  3. #3
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    Your character is either a God, or dead.

    (On reflection -being dead doesn't create omniscience)
    Last edited by Bufty; 05-02-2012 at 09:42 PM. Reason: re-phrased for brevity
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    practical experience, FTW amschilling's Avatar
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    I think true 1st omni might be...odd? Depends on who the character is, I guess. A god/diety I'd expect to know it all. Or a psychic. A regular person? Not so much. Characters can assume things from what they read or hear, but true omni, well: how would Mary know that Peggy Sue is currently buying a bottle of scotch across town and thinking about her dead dog Muffy, if Mary isn't there, not on the phone with the one of the customers in the store or the owner, and Peggy Sue isn't talking out loud to herself?

    I think the trick would be to make sure the narrator knowing everything makes sense. Otherwise it would be hard to suspend disbelief as a reader.
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    I think I'd like it in spec fic. Maybe something very literary? If the story is supposed to be grounded and normal, then no.

    I write magical realism and I think a 1st person omni might be a nice effect. I've thought about this before, for my own writing. Just mho. MR is easy that way, though, because it could be 'explained' as supernatural. Things don't have to make rational sense in MR.
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    Not responsible for bitten fingers Shadow_Ferret's Avatar
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    I'd be curious how this one Character knows it all. Now if the person was an unreliable narrator, one who lies about knowing everything, or maybe he's suffering from some mental illness and hes under the delusion that he knows it all... Something like that might work. Because as the others mentioned, unless the character is a god or has supernatural or psychic powers, ordinary people can't be omniscient.
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    Soaking up information. L.Blake's Avatar
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    Okay...I'll stick with 3rd omni. None of my characters are deity, psychic or supernatural. Thanks for the information.

    L.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW mayqueen's Avatar
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    The only example I can think of is Gillian Bradshaw's Horses of Heaven. The first person POV wasn't true omni, because she was recounting what she had been told later by the other characters. I found it super distracting and kept asking, Why would she know that?
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    I remember reading a book in first person omni and finding it very annoying. It was 'Spider' by Patrick McGrath. As far as I can recall, the narrator was human and not dead.

    Cronenberg made a film of the book, so presumably he wasn't annoyed.

    Apparently first person omni is considered a legitimate POV, but it certainly isn't used much.

  10. #10
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    Just to add to the ideas here

    You could use 1st person with a character who knows everything, either because of his position or otherwise.

    I've always found Omni POV congested and boring. (That's just me)
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  11. #11
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post

    You could use 1st person with a character who knows everything, either because of his position or otherwise.
    )

    This isn't Omni. Omni is literally "omniscient," or able to know thoughts, not just things one could know that other characters aren't privy to.
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  12. #12
    Makes useful distinctions Lady Ice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by L.Blake View Post
    I would rather write in 1st POV, but I tend to have one character who knows it all, even when not there. Would reading 1st omni be confusing and bothersome.

    I can read it and be fine, but I'm WHACK

    L.
    In third omni, your narrator tends to be a persona of the writer, so as writer, you are allowed to interrupt and play around as if you were a character.

    One character who knows a lot is not the same as omni. You could use them for a first-person narrative but it wouldn't be omni.
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  13. #13
    Soaking up information. L.Blake's Avatar
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    Thanks again everyone [)]

    Shadow_Ferret, if you understood the workings of my mind and how my character knew everything, you would be as crazy as I am. I had to go through the first draft and change it to 3rd omni to make it work.

    L.

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  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW heza's Avatar
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    I agree with most comments that for regular stories, the first-person POV shouldn't be omni.

    I won't discount it as a viable POV altogether, though. I could see it working in a story, even with a living, non-supernatural, non-deity character. But I also think it would be a trainwreck if it was just slapped down without planning. It seems like 1st Omni could be used for specific purposes--unreliable narrator, in a story that benefits from that level of intimacy but also requires omniscience for crucial details. It could be done--well, I think--but it would also have to be done carefully and very consciously.
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    Queen of the Upmarket Bagladies HoneyBadger's Avatar
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    I think the fun of first-person, in part, is that most people *think* they know what other people are thinking (but they don't) and it leads to all sorts of confusion.

    A pseudo-omni 1st person narrator in a totally non-magical/spec novel could be really neat, but boy howdy, you'd have to be a genius fucking writer to make it work well.

  16. #16
    Makes useful distinctions Lady Ice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoneyBadger View Post
    I think the fun of first-person, in part, is that most people *think* they know what other people are thinking (but they don't) and it leads to all sorts of confusion.
    Agreed. The appeal of 1st POV is that it follows the perspective of one character.
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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin three_act_climax's Avatar
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    This might be useful: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=212675

    It's hard to pull off, but if done well it might be particularly interesting. Check out The Satanic Verses, The Book Thief and The Lovely Bones.

  18. #18
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    If the narrative is in past tense, you could relay the notion that the narrator learned the extra information after the fact, and chooses to tell it at the points when it is relevant, despite the fact s/he could not have been there at the time.

    Of course, I'm of the opinion that if you want a 1st-omni narrator, then go for it. My least favorite college professor tried to say that 2nd person narrative was impossible. Nothing's @#$#ing impossible, we're writers! If disbelief couldn't be suspended we'd all be wasting our time! I write to immerse myself in something that I can't have in my own life. If every word I wrote had to be something factual or possible, I'd hang up my pen and never write again.

    I'm not saying 1st omni or 2nd is easy, and certainly they aren't common. But if it's what you want for your story, you find a way to make it work.

    Edit: I apologize if I came on a bit strong here, but I swear, this one professor's limited, 'my word is law' viewpoint on writing just gave me a twitchy reaction to being told something can't be done. I thank the AW community for being much more reasonable than her.
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  19. #19
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    There's also the possibility that the narrator is suffering from some sort of delusion and he only thinks that he knows everything. That could be interesting...

  20. #20
    Makes useful distinctions Lady Ice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lycoplax View Post
    My least favorite college professor tried to say that 2nd person narrative was impossible.
    Nothing is really impossible but 2nd person is such a hard sell that attempting to do it for a full-length novel might not be the best idea. But you can never convince a writer that anything is impossible
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  21. #21
    Really Devious Magnas's Avatar
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    I have often thought about the first person omni pov. I want to apply it to a supernatural setting, but I would need feedback before proceeding. Basically, there is a character who comes from a long line of sorcerers. Due to a curse, he was transformed into an animal. As part of his abilities, he is able to sneak into small spaces and can read the thoughts of others.

    I keep going back and forth between first person omni and third, but I would really like to make this character the narrator since the story is about his family and how they deal with sorcery in the modern world.
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  22. #22
    New kid...seven years ago! DancingMaenid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HoneyBadger View Post
    I think the fun of first-person, in part, is that most people *think* they know what other people are thinking (but they don't) and it leads to all sorts of confusion.

    A pseudo-omni 1st person narrator in a totally non-magical/spec novel could be really neat, but boy howdy, you'd have to be a genius fucking writer to make it work well.
    I agree with this. I'd love to see it done, but it'd probably be a big challenge to write.

    As for first person omni, Faulkner seems to do it a little bit in As I Lay Dying. I think it's theoretically possible. Just challenging to pull off well, and something that I think really needs to be done with intent in order to work.

  23. #23
    Writer, Scholar, King TomLysander's Avatar
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    It also is (kinda) happening in McEwan's Atonement. Although in that case, the novel is presented as 3rd-person omniscient and then filtered through the eyes of a 1st-person narrator.

    I hated the ending to that book, as much as I like McEwan's writing style.

    I'm more fascinated by a 1st-p plural POV. Like Eugenides' Virgin Suicides. or Genet's Querelle. That may actually be the ticket to a 1st-p omniscient viewpoint, provided that it includes enough people.
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  24. #24
    Really Devious Magnas's Avatar
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    I am intrigued. How do you distinguish the POV of multiple characters if it is 1st person and plural though?
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  25. #25
    Worst song played on ugliest guitar Libbie's Avatar
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    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is told (much of it, anyway) in first omni. The assumption is that the omniscient narrator is an individual character and that all the characters involved in the story told him personally of their thoughts, actions, feelings, etc. He in turn relates these to the reader as needed, as he also relates the action of the story. It works well enough in the hands of a good writer like Junot Diaz that he won a Pulitzer for it, so make of that what you will. The segments of Oscar Wao which are not in first omni are in second person. It's a trickly little book, but a good read.

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