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Thread: Omni Discussion

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  1. #1
    figuring it all out johnsolomon's Avatar
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    Oct 2014
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    Omni Discussion

    I've noticed that there are a lot of practicable tips for 3rd limited (like articles on deep POV, etc.) but not much on omni. It tends to be pretty vague, and sometimes you can tell that the person writing the article knows what omni is but maybe hasn't used it enough to have any tips and tricks to give.

    So I made this post in case people want to discuss omni and share their findings. I should add that some of these are just my deductions from reading books and they could very well be wrong, so if they are, I apologise in advance!

    What most of us know:

    • Omni involves using a narrator who has access to everything anyone could possibly know, which lets you show whatever you want. You can tell us things your characters don't know, reveal anyone's thoughts, etc.


    What some of us don't realise:

    • Omni only works if you maintain sufficient narrative/psychic distance. If you're not careful when you follow a particular character, we will settle into their head and get comfortable. If you then reveal something they can't know, it's jarring and takes us out of the story.
    • This is one of omni's biggest faults -- if you want to move around a lot, you have to maintain that distance, which means using the omni narrator's voice (there are exceptions, and I'll get to this*) instead of your characters' voices. This can make it a little harder for readers to connect emotionally.
    • Omni writers also need to be aware of head-hopping. Head-hopping =/= rapidly changing POVs (although this tends to result in head hopping). Head-hopping is revealing a new character's thoughts or feelings in such a way that it throws the reader off.
    • This is a big reason why filtering is your friend. Filtering allows you to show what any character is thinking while maintaining distance. "Jack thought", "Lucy wondered", etc. This same distance is precisely the reason people warn against filtering in stories gunning for a close third limited.


    My findings:

    • Like dialogue, it often helps to start a new line when you're transitioning into a new head (at least, when you’ve got a lot of transitions). This isn't necessary at all, but I've read a lot of omni web serials and noticed that it can be easier to follow if you do this
    • If you want to "dip" into someone's head without jarring the reader, use transitions. These can be prepositional phrases or simply sentences that give us a logical bridge from one event to the next (or both):
      Lucy's heart beat madly in her throat. There were simply too many goblins! No matter how many she cut down, more kept coming. Was this how she would die?
      Behind her, Jack was equally terrified. He hacked at the goblins madly, and then risked a scowl at one of the camp's guard towers. How could the watchmen not have noticed such a large group? What were those fools doing up there?
      "Behind her" shifts our focus to a new location.
      Jack was "equally" terrified gives us a logical bridge – we’re going from her fear to his. It isn't jarring when we now take a look at his thoughts. There are lots of ways to transition from any event to another.
      If you want to play it safe it helps to use actual thoughts in italics instead of third person narration, but *you definitely can​ flavour the narrator's voice with a character's voice as long as you do it in moderation. Do it too much and you risk closing the psychic distance. Italics is "safer" in the sense that you can keep using them and the reader won't forget that they're observing the character's thoughts from the outside.


    That's all I got for now.

    Thoughts? Disagreements? Other things you've noticed?
    Last edited by johnsolomon; 04-01-2019 at 09:47 AM.

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