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Thread: Possible third person omniscient dilemma

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Arcadia Divine's Avatar
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    Possible third person omniscient dilemma

    In my WIP, I have what are called Time Watchers. Basically they are the oldest beings in the Omniverse (also called the Universe Primordials) and their jobs are to watch and record events occurring throughout history without interfering (long story short). The most important of these events happens to be centered around the MC and his adventurers.

    The only way I think this will work is in third person omniscient. The problem I'm having is that the omniscient narrator is the Time Watcher assigned to that universe and, unbeknownst to the party, they meet.

    Would meeting the narrator of the story actually work for third person omniscient? I'm guessing it depends on how I write the story but I want to make sure. I don't want to violate any omniscient ground rules.
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  2. #2
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    You could just do it in limited, as the Watchers are only watching the life of a single person unfold, rather than them all at the same time.

    I believe that an omni "narrator" is the collective of description/thoughts/actions of the characters, and not a actual "narrator" that is not involved with the story.
    That said, there's still a problem with making the reader know "MC is meeting the narrator".

    You can build narration with 3rd limited on one of the watchers, following him around before you point the direction of the story to the MC or world, and that way the reader would know there is a person behind everything.

    Other than that, you can play around with 1st person omni.


    If you felt like experimenting, I'd recommend: 1st person omni, with a very distant narrator (they barely speak up, but some parts are in 1st within the narrator's thoughts), and everything is told mostly with 3rd omni.

    The easiest one I see is: Give the reader a 3rd limited scene, where you watch one of the Watchers, watch the world. Then, branch down into 3rd limited like normal. Only intrude back and worth through scene breaks, thus it's a normal multiple limited. And, when the narrator meets the MC, have him tell it from his POV, from the past (or the present situation).


    Other than that, I have no idea how to bring up the Omni narrator without it feeling overly forced.

    Second thought: You can give the Omni narrator a name, given in the beginning of the story, and later on it's used towards the MC.
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  3. #3
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    And the problem I'm having is understanding what your story is about, which means I don't really understand the issue re using third person, first person or omniscient.

    Is this meeting of real significance -is it the beginning of the story, the middle of the story, or the end of the story?

    Which POV would best suit the story?

    From what little info is available, first person seems the most obvious choice if the narrator is going to become directly involved in the unfolding tale.

    Main thing to aim for is to let the reader know from the outset who is who and what is happening.

    Good luck

    Quote Originally Posted by Arcadia Divine View Post
    ...The problem I'm having is that the omniscient narrator is the Time Watcher assigned to that universe and, unbeknownst to the party, they meet.

    .
    Last edited by Bufty; 11-20-2012 at 03:44 PM.
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  4. #4
    Happy Spring!! backslashbaby's Avatar
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    If your omni narration includes personality, so to speak, then I think you might be best doing the meeting parts in 1st person omni. In the bulk of the story, is your narrator the type who can make asides and all that? That's where I'd expect 1st person for when he becomes a character.

    OTOH, if the omni feels more neutral than that for most of the story, I think traditional omni the whole way through would work.

    The safest would be to use traditional omni the whole way. You can make it known that the narrator is really the character without any PoV change. Just don't do that if it feels too contrived, imho. The 'rules' don't matter as much as a smooth, effective story, I think
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  5. #5
    Soldier, Storyteller Linda Adams's Avatar
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    On omni, you're probably going to have a bunch of people jump in here and say, "Most writers do it badly. It's hard. Don't do it." If it's right for your story, stick to it. Sometimes hard is a good thing to work with.

    However, it is a challenging viewpoint to learn. Make sure you're using it to take best advantage of it -- not to try to fix a writing problem. A lot of writers jump into it to fix a problem with the story (i.e., they haven't settled who is their main character), and the problem is still there.

    And I agree with Bufty's comments on the story. It looks like you gave a lot of backstory, but not actual story.
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Arcadia Divine View Post
    In my WIP, I have what are called Time Watchers. Basically they are the oldest beings in the Omniverse (also called the Universe Primordials) and their jobs are to watch and record events occurring throughout history without interfering (long story short). The most important of these events happens to be centered around the MC and his adventurers.

    The only way I think this will work is in third person omniscient. The problem I'm having is that the omniscient narrator is the Time Watcher assigned to that universe and, unbeknownst to the party, they meet.

    Would meeting the narrator of the story actually work for third person omniscient? I'm guessing it depends on how I write the story but I want to make sure. I don't want to violate any omniscient ground rules.
    You could consider using a peripheral character to be the narrator of the story. An example could be the character Nick Carraway--the first person narrator--in Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby.

    In such stories as the above example, the narrator can or could at times assume to have omniscient knowledge of certain events which logically he couldn't (since he is not a "god", and wasn't there, and was never told about it, etc.)--hence, the term "omniscient 1st person [narrator] Point-Of-View" for those types of stories.

    From your brief description, for your story, it is possible that your Time Watcher character could be your "Nick Carraway" and that your MC could be your "Gatsby".

    If you search around, either on the internet or on this site, for threads on "omniscient" + "first", and maybe include "Great Gatsby", you'll find discussions on this topic. (Especially here on AW, there are many threads on this.)

    Usually, if this type of story structure is used, then the author generally uses 1st person POV. (It is possible to use limited [narrator] 3rd person POV, but it would be technically much harder.) Note that this type of story POV--omniscient first person POV--could end up being very similar to reminiscent narrator POV, for the reminiscent narrator usually looks upon his past events with omniscient-like abilities. And often, there is an overlap.

    (Also, note that the general convention is to consider that "omniscient POV" is short-hand for "omniscient narrator 3rd person Point-Of-View". And that the omniscient narrator is NOT a character in that story--and is not a character at all. And since your intention is to use a character in that story as the narrator, then your story POV would not be considered as an omniscient POV.)

    Many creative-writing books on the general craft, or on the specific topic of Point-Of-View, will usually spend twenty pages or more on the topic of Point-Of-View in fiction, and I'd expect that they cover this issue of using a peripheral character or secondary character as the story's narrator--though they might use a different term for that type of POV.

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