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Thread: writing from the point of View of an Omniscient Main Character

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    writing from the point of View of an Omniscient Main Character

    I have what are best describe as the bones of an idea in progress,

    My Main Character is essentially the embodiment of Death who is taking somewhat of a holiday (takes place in modern day), so i wonder, what is the general opinion, and some pitfalls and or/tips for writing a nigh omniscient main character? and from his point of view?

    Any thoughts helpful.

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW TellMeAStory's Avatar
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    Gee. I always thought Death was omniscient--how could he not be?

    Absolutely go for an omniscient death, and don't delay. This looks good.

  3. #3
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    Oh he absolutely will be omniscient but im having some difficulty in how he interacts with his environment, i would like there to be some struggle for him on some level. Like he has knowledge of all things that have happened up to now, and that are currently unfolding in the present but no idea of the future....something like that anyway.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    This sounds a little like the Lucifer TV show... which I enjoy BTW.

  5. #5
    Not as sweet as you think Aggy B.'s Avatar
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    It kind of depends on what your "rules" are for the world.

    The Southern Gothic novella series I wrote has a character who can see not only what happens outside herself in the present but also in the past and the future too. (At least in the first book. Her abilities get further restricted as the books progress.) I wrote the chapters where she is bodily present in 1st person/present tense. The scenes she has observed and is narrating to the reader are in 3rd person/present tense. (It becomes clear that she's the narrator but she doesn't self-insert her own direct observations in those chapters.) Flashbacks followed the same POV structure except past tense.

    She does talk about how some times things get muddled because it can be hard separate what *is* happening from what *will* happen. And there are a few chapters that are simply observations about her world/past that are not "scenes" in the sense the others are. But it's structured to fit her as a character - a human with far reaching abilities, but mostly limited to her own body, plus a few world-building rules that might be spoilery.

    So what rules are set up for your Death character? How does knowing everything effect his day to day existence (on holiday or not)? Does he always make the right choice because he knows the consequences of every action or is there a limit on how far ahead he can see (and multiple "right" choices)? Sketch it out/brainstorm and see what shakes loose.
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  6. #6
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    Death takes a holiday. Is it a comedy? You are presumably aware of the book and show of the same name.
    Everything yields to treatment.

  7. #7
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    thanks all,

    I am aware of death takes a holiday, probably back in the recess of my mind it inspire some possibilities from the title alone,

    I quite like lucifer too and like the Neil Gaiman series its based on and i really really like the concept of personified "forces" like the endless from that series.

    Im fairly sure that he wouldnt necessarily see the future, in this universe Death (until he has a break) functions as an agent of death co-erced/guided by a higher "plan" much like a moth drawn to a flame at the expense of getting burned, until he "personifies" his entity as aperson after a particular experience.....then gets to make some choice as to who lives and dies with some rammifications.

    im trying i think to steer away from knowing what will happen, as thats actually quite important to his resentment at his "cursed" position.

  8. #8
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    it's also something which happens in a Terry Pratchett book, sort of.

    If he can't see the future, he's not omniscient.
    "Though one evil spirit may drive a woman out of Eden, all the devils in hell cannot drive Heaven out of a woman."

    -- George MacDonald

  9. #9
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    having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things.

    taken from dictionary.com - i took it that percieving all things was limited to that which has happened or currently happening.....but then again complete, unlimited knowledge would mean not limited by past/present/future....

    Interesting, hadnt thought that he may not be omniscient, might make it easier to reconcile in my head.

  10. #10
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    complete and unlimited knowledge would include the future, yes. Even if it didn't, but included everything else, being omniscient would mean he'd be able to figure out a way to see the future too.

    it's a common metaphysical argument/problem for religion.
    "Though one evil spirit may drive a woman out of Eden, all the devils in hell cannot drive Heaven out of a woman."

    -- George MacDonald

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW benbenberi's Avatar
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    Having a truly omniscient POV character poses a number of storytelling challenges - by definition, the only time an omniscient character can make a wrong decision or attempt something and fail is if they deliberately choose to be wrong or to fail, because they know the outcome before they do or decide anything. They know how the story ends before it begins, they know how everyone will react to everything at every point along the way, and their total understanding is not constrained by the framework of past/present/future that limit the rest of us. In a narrator, omniscience can be a valuable attribute. In a character, it's a very big problem.

    OTOH, a character who used to be omniscient but for whatever reason is not omniscient any more has huge narrative potential.

  12. #12
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    Have you read any of Terry Pratchett's novels featuring the character Death. There is at least one where he indeed does take a holiday.

    caw
    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    -- Terry Pratchett

  13. #13
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    Not actually being omniscient but operating as though you are presents some interesting challenges, too.

    SIRI and Hal 9000, I'm looking at you.

    I'm cobbling together a first-person quasi-omniscient narrator and settled with something like being able to see every possibility, but not knowing which one will collapse. Having an omniscient narrator who is not the MC allows me to go hard on the irony, too.

    I'm totally saving that loss of omniscience concept for later. :O

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackcat777 View Post
    Not actually being omniscient but operating as though you are presents some interesting challenges, too.
    Witness the current President of the United States.

    caw
    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    -- Terry Pratchett

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW DanielSTJ's Avatar
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    I've seen death, portrayed as omniscient, embodied successfully in The Book Thief.

    Just sayin'.
    Vivere militare est.

  16. #16
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    i think, inspired by this thread, i might opt for a reducing sphere of influence. starting out as omniscient and becoming less so as the story evolves...not because of his growing humanity but potentially psychosomatic as he starts to enjoy the not knowing....might make for some unintentional blunders by a very powerful charachter.

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