Omniscient POV

I’ve been reading a book that was highly recommended—and not by just anybody, but everybody! All the blogs I read that recommend books recommended this book. Even NPR recommended the book!

It’s a Regency-set fantasy which is one of my absolute favorite genres, and one where there are much too few entries. (There were so few that I had to write a few myself). The NPR review likened the book to Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and called it a “fun romp”.

Now I loved Jonathan Strange. I thought it was one of the greatest books I’d ever read, so I eagerly picked up this new-to-me book. But even half-way through reading it, I just could not care. I turned the pages because I was so far along that I figured I should go on, and there was a touch of suspense that made me want to know the nature of an unusual illness in the hero. I made it through the first half of the book, certain that I would feel something sometime soon. I just needed to get to know the characters better.

But no.

I don’t like the heroine. She’s a selfish, self-centered, annoying person. The hero is a wimp who never stands up for himself and allows people to talk over him and determine his actions. But I might be able to deal with these character flaws if it wasn’t for one important thing.

The book is written in the omniscient point of view. We are in everybody’s head all the time. We know what everyone is thinking.

Now, you might think that this was a good thing. If we know what people are thinking, then we’ll feel for them. We’ll understand why they’re doing what they do.

Sadly, that’s not the case. It does allow me to know all the characters better since I know what they’re thinking, but because there are so many voices, I simply don’t care about any of them.

Using the omniscient voice keeps your reader at arm’s length despite allowing them into the heads of your characters. I cannot care about everyone, so instead, I care about no one.

Using the fly-on-the-wall point of view does the very same thing. If you don’t know what anyone is thinking, if, instead, we simply see the action, we can’t really care about anyone. We, the readers, are kept at a distance.

If you want to make your readers care—and you should because that is one sure what to make them turn those pages—then you need to bring your reader inside the heads of your main characters. Hopefully, that won’t be more than two or three (as I’ve discussed before, having too many POVs just gets horribly confusing). We need to be able to identify with the characters; feel what they’re feeling. We can’t do that if we know what everybody is thinking, and we can’t do that if we don’t know what anybody is thinking.

It’s all a very fine balance of being inside the right number of people’s heads and making us identify with those characters.

All right, I’m nearly to the end of this horrible book, so I might as well finish the thing…

Merry
 

Meredith Bond is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith’s heart belongs to her husband and two children. Meredith’s second favorite pastime is teaching others to write.

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