Why not omniscient voice?

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I’ve been working with an author who has written a “self-help novel”. Basically, he wants readers to come away having learned a lesson after reading his fictional book. Fiction with a moral? Whatever you want to call it, he’s a new author (this is his first book) and he thought to make it more immediate to the reader by writing the first two sections of the book in the first person, present tense (one section is about the hero, the other about the heroine), and the third section (about the two of them coming together) in omniscient, present tense.

I, personally, don’t like books written in the present tense. In fact, I’ve only read one series written in the present tense that I’ve liked (written by a very experienced author). I hated many, many more. But, okay, I could live with this book being written in the present tense.

What I couldn’t live with was his omniscient point of view in the third section. He couldn’t understand why. He thought that if we knew what everyone was thinking we’d understand them and their motives better. We’d know what every character is thinking and feeling as they go through the story.

But that’s the problem. If we know what everyone is thinking, we are kept at arms length from the characters. We can’t identify with any one. If you’re trying to bring your reader in, teach them something, or make them feel personally invested in the characters you can’t do that with the omniscient point of view.

No matter what genre you write or whether you want to educate your readers or simply let them live vicariously in another world for little while, you want your reader to feel a part of the action. They should be able to identify with one or two characters (an argument for limiting the number of point of view characters you have in a book—too many and the reader won’t be able to identify with them all).

In a scene, we can only identify with one person. In real life we live only in our own head. We don’t know what anyone else is thinking unless they show it through expression or action, or straight out tell it to us. We’re used to living in the first person. But if you’ve got multiple points of view we can’t identify with anyone. We were not designed to be a god, knowing what everyone is thinking and feeling all the time.

Not only this, but it ruins the suspense, lessens the conflict. If you know why everyone is doing what they do, what is the reader reading for?

Imagine reading a mystery and knowing what the investigator is thinking, who he is considering to be the killer, and the murderer thinking that they’ve gotten away with it. We would know who did it. Where would the fun be in that?

In a romance, we don’t need to know how the two main characters feel about each other immediately as they feel it. Giving the reader a little suspense until they get to the next scene, in the other pov. It pulls the reader forward wanting to know how the two people are going to resolve their differences and when they’re finally going to realize that they’re in love.

For this reason, you need to only switch point of view when  you move on to a new scene. We become the pov character when we can only see what happens through one set of eyes—just as we do in life.

Let your readers get as close as they can to the story. They’ll keep turning the pages—and possibly recommending your books to others for the fantastic experience they had reading it.

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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