I have written a series of historical novels (three complete, four in various states of outline and finished chapters) in the omniscient POV—my favorite.
I am writing a contemporary legal drama from a first person POV, because it happened that way (fictionalized episode in our lives). A premise for a contemporary mystery is still formulating…can a mystery be omniscient? (Anyone out there want to help with Hollywood research? But I digress.)
My favorite books have been sprawling historic/fantasy epics; starting with James Clavell’s Asian series and Frank Herbert’s Dune chronicles. Followed by Jean Auel’s Children of the Earth and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
According to Oakley Hall, in The Art & Craft of Novel Writing, it is mandatory to write omniscient in the long historic/fantasy books because the scope is too broad for anything else, and it gets boring for the reader in first person or even third. Following several plot lines requires “insider” knowledge of the characters. Dare to be a Great Writer, by Leonard Bishop also addresses the need for omniscient POV in certain stories.
Barbara Kingsolver used omniscient POV in Prodigal Summer. The reader was inside the head of Deanne, Lusa, and Garnett. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is also omniscient, with the reader in the head of Peter Keating, Ellsworth Toohey and Gail Wynand as well as Howard Roark and Dominique Francon. But never in the same scene…
Tai-Pan, by James Clavell has omniscient POV in the same scene, and I copied some pages as samples. I have been rereading Shogun, (this is dangerous, because I can’t put it down!). Thus far, I haven’t found changing POV in scene, but it is a huge book, and ages since I read it.
Valley of Horses by Jean Auel is omniscient changing POV in scene between Jondolar and Ayla.
Diana Gabaldon shifts between first person, Clare Randall/Fraser and the omniscient narrator, which she says is the “book” telling the story. I have not found a changing POV in scene.
Personally, I LOVE knowing what everyone is thinking. It adds complexity and insight for me. Many other books achieve this through dialogue and body language. But then everything is “on the table”. There is a certain suspense in knowing more than the protagonist, I think.
Charlotte Cook of Komenar Publishing doesn’t like omniscient POV, and says Americans don’t know how to do it well...James Clavell was British and is deceased. It has certainly fallen out of favor. Prodigal Summer, Pillars of the Earth, are contemporary omniscient. Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley, I loved being in the Jack Russell, Eileen’s head. I sometimes write from the POV of the horses in my books.
I must also study Dickens. It has been AGES since I read any. While I religiously watch “A Christmas Carol” every Christmas season, I haven’t read it in ages, and must review it as well for omniscient or third person.
How about Atonement? Aren’t we inside the heads of Briony, as well as her sister and Robbie? Better check.
Back to me. I write omniscient because I like it. And I think perhaps because my early experiences reading were such. A Tale of Two Cities had multiple insights, while I can't remember if it was truly omniscient, my memory from high school is understanding multiple points of view, what motivated people. That is what interests me, what people think, and what motivates them.
Maybe it is a cop out. It is easy. As an author, I must know all the characters. Who, what, where, why and how. Of course I must know my protagonists inside out. Eloise and Dahlquin have a pedigree worthy of AKC registration. Roland, too. But I must know the Scragmuirs, Pingbee, Ainsley, the FitzGilbert’s, Charnley’s, etc. to understand what drives the story and keeps it plausible for me, and ultimately readers.
First person POV seems really hard to do. And limiting. Everything is filtered through one person, one POV. I am writing one book first person, because it is me. I have changed the names, and have taken fictional liberties. Maybe the book will rewrite itself in a different POV…I doubt it, because I don’t know the antagonist, I can only play off her actions. I can only presume so much of what my husband was going through. I must fictionalize this one, because I don’t want to do a memoir—too boring and all the participants are living (lawsuit and family strife). But the episode ended on a Capraesque/Hollywood note. It would be a waste not to capitalize on it. This was the lemonade after a year of a sour lemon harvest.
I enjoy first person of view. Please don’t get me wrong. Clare Randall/Fraser is one of my favorites. Write on, DG. CJ, the Social worker fashionista. Poisonwood Bible, with multiple first person POV’s…Li Hui (My Half of the Sky), Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, the list goes on and on in fiction. It is mandatory in memoir.
It general, it is just not how I write. Or, honestly, it is not how I hear the “voices”. Remember, I write fiction, straddling the razor’s edge of mental illness (see those blogs). My protagonists deserve worthy antagonists. (the maze and the cheese?) And those antagonists are the hardest part for me to create (or listen for), as I want to live in a pleasant world of happily-ever-afters. I don’t like strife or confrontation. Pansy that I am I avoid trouble.
Are there any rules dictating POV? If I read the word “wished” or “thought” regarding a character, then I’m inside that character’s head. If that happens for more than one character, isn’t that omniscient?