Eliminating Omniscience

Omniscience: it’s hard to think of a dirtier word for writers.

When stories don’t jump off the page, when characters don’t come to life, omniscient voice is usually the culprit. This is because there’s a massive difference between merely registering plot points and being engrossed in them. An omniscient voice leads to the former by sucking the immediacy out of a piece of writing. Nobody wants to be aware of an author telling him how a character feels. The reader wants to share the emotion with that character as he or she experiences it.

Quick and Dirty Example:

Omniscient:

“Bret sat down at the breakfast table. Hungry, he stared at the ham and eggs sizzling on his plate, unsure of what to eat first.”

Doesn’t seem too bad at first glance, does it? The point is getting across, but something about it is just kind of…bland.

Non-omniscient:

“Bret sat down at the breakfast table. Hungry, he stared at the ham and eggs sizzling on his plate.

God, that looks good! What to eat first…?”

With just that little change to internal thought (dialogue would have also been acceptable), the reader is placed in the character’s head and given the reaction in his voice. Not only do these shifts further connect the reader to the character, they make the events in the story pop more because there’s greater investment in their effects on the people involved.

The truth is that good books aren’t just read, they’re lived. And any discerning reader is going to be aware if he’s walking through some fantastical landscape or reading about it in a guidebook.

One Response to Eliminating Omniscience

  1. Pingback: New Article Up (Eliminating Omniscience) | The Third Eye Opened

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