If you’re thinking of writing your novel in omniscient POV (point of view), forget it. Writers who use omniscient POV don’t challenge themselves to write in a more intimate style, which takes more work and thought.
In first person or third person limited the reader lives inside the head and heart of the character “on stage”. With omniscient the reader is an onlooker, in the audience, trying to identify with the character at a distance.
Some storytellers are so great at their craft, like Dickens and others from the past, you don’t notice the distance. But today’s writers, using today’s writing convents, must use the most intimate first and third person POVs with interior monologue if they want to get published. The writing needs to seduce editors in publishing houses, and then the readers.
Renni Browne and Shelly Lowenkopf, both of whom have extensive experience with book publishers, appear to regard the use of omniscient point of view as a combination of being dated and offering potential confusion to the reader.
Shelly has come forth to suggest that omniscient sends a signal to the reader that you’re going back to the early days of the twentieth century and such tropes as the HIBK, or Had I But Known times. He argues to his students that omniscient produces speed bumps. Close first, third and multiple POV get the story told.
Renni, who was once senior editor at the great literary house of Norton, claims omniscient tends to build a wall between the reader and the character, making it too easy for the author to slip in the occasional hand-held sign that is in fact a stage direction.
I so agree with them. When deciding to write in omniscient POV, the author takes the less challenging path. When I pick up a published novel that’s written in omniscient, I’m immediately disappointed. Why did the writer take this path and who let her get published if this is a first novel? Who’s speaking? The author of course.
I don’t want the author to speak to me. I want the characters to speak to me, to let me know what that character hears, sees, smells, tastes, guesses, experiences, doubts, believes. I want the character to “show me” not “tell me.” As though I, the reader, lived inside the head of the POV character.
The camera is inside that character’s head. Not the author’s. The author must be invisible to me, must not intervene. When I read a query from a writer who wants my agency to represent him and I discover they’ve written in omniscient, I stop reading. I know that writer must master more skills. Next.