I’m so happy to have Kelly Simmons here today. Not only have I known Kelly for about 8 years, she is tackling a topic close to my heart.
THIRD PERSON OMNISCIENT POINT OF VIEW.
Chill, we’re not saying it can’t or shouldn’t be done except, well, it shouldn’t. Not by most writers. Sometimes it’s effective to have an all-knowing narrator perched on the mantel, but it also has tremendous limitations. And as only Kelly can, she’s going to demonstrate and explain.
When you’re finished
being brainwashed reading, check out Kelly’s newest novel, ONE MORE DAY. Details below!
Please welcome Kelly Simmons to WFW and let’s talk omniscient POV in the comments!
The Peril of Third-Person Omniscient Point Of View
by Kelly Simmons
Kelly Simmons is not fond of third person omniscient. It reminds her of cold, mushy peas force-fed to her by a mother whose only defense was that her own mother did the same , and if it was good enough for her, Maggie O’Callahan, then it was certainly good enough for young Kelly. Why, the only one happy about third person in their household was the dog, Fluffy, who eagerly lapped up the peas offered under the table.
Okay, you see what I did there. It doesn’t seem fair to write about the perils of third person in first person, but I feel strongly that third person should come with a warning label. Caution: may feel like cold mushy peas!!
Here’s what happens. Sometimes we are deeply inspired by sagas that span generations and countries. We fall in love with multi-book series that build worlds, require deep historical research and introduce us to hundreds of characters. And as writers, we want this sweep too – and choose third person omniscient.
And by embracing it — there is no way to narrow our scope. We have only breadth ahead — of characters, settings, timelines, and point of view. Goals spiral, outlines mushroom . . . and it becomes impossible to write a summary for an agent, an editor, or even a well-meaning friend over coffee. That’s how you know you are in trouble.
And yet – no one was ever harmed by writing the first pages of a novel two or three different ways.
If you’re just starting out – if you have all the research done and the outline complete and your office is starting to look like a paper-covered cave . . . If, when you try to describe your novel to friends their eyes start to glaze over and they need to take bathroom breaks…
Consider trying third person limited. Consider first person chapters from alternating points of view.
“Experiment early to avoid tears later,” Kelly said, the tracks of her own tears clearly visible on her face. No one knew she’d written eight novels before she’d published one, and had so many abandoned manuscripts she had to buy a separate hard drive to hold them all. Her husband knew, however, and made it his business to never let her forget . . . . .
Kelly Simmons’ novels have been hailed as electrifying, complex and poignant, and aren’t those nice words? Her third novel, ONE MORE DAY, just came out and everyone calls it riveting, so don’t buy it unless you want to stay up all night reading it. It’s also perilously crafted in third person. She’s a member of The Liars Club, a group of published novelists dedicated to helping fledgling writers. Connect with her here:
6 thoughts on “Guest Post: Author Kelly Simmons Talks About the Perils Of Omniscient POV”
Great post, Kelly! When I first started writing, I tried head-hopping, a close cousin to omniscient. I was inspired by Alice Hoffman, who excels at both head-hopping and omniscient. But for me? It. Did. Not. Work. Trial and error led me to close third-person point of view, and there I’ve remained.
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Oh Lorrie, maybe we could job share and co-write a novel since we are similar!!!
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Ah, Kelly, if only I were smart enough to experiment now to avoid tears later, but alas, NO. I just wrote my most recent novel in three points of view, then realized I needed to add a fourth, tore it apart and wrote it over, THEN said, oh, wait, this other character is UNNECESSARY NOW, so I tore it all apart and started AGAIN. All of this on deadline for Penguin–and with a synopsis, yet. Sometimes our characters just won’t behave, I guess. Thanks for a great post.
Oh holly, that is like a triple lutz triple toe loop! Lots of writers end up hating selling a book off synopsis, because it seems like such a good idea …. Until….
Can you please write some examples of third person omniscient and third person limited?
The top and bottom of this post is written in 3rd person omniscient — offering the perspectives of all characters. A classic example of this is LIttle Women. But most third person novels are limited — such as Harry Potter and the classic Catch-22. Hope this helps!