How to Write in Third Person Omniscient
Point of View
Point of View is a mental position from which things, persons, incidents etc. are viewed and observed. Point of View in Literature is the technique, which an author chooses, to present his/her story in prose or verse. How the characters, scenes, and situations appear on the screen is the Point of View in Film.
Point of View in Literature
Viewpoint of the author in first person, second person, or third person perspective is Point of View in Literature. Author presents his/her Point of View in a narrative through atmosphere, setting, characters, situations and dialogues.
Point of View in Film
Point of View in Film is the viewpoint of screenwriter, cinematographer and the director. It is normally presented through the shooting angle or camera angle. The film may be in a single person’s Point of View or multiple person Point of View (Multiple Narrative). It sets mood and tone of the film, and refers to the physical viewpoint.
Story needs a storyteller. Story is the narrative and the storyteller is the narrator. A story told in prose or verse is called narrative. Narrative includes characters, incidents, dialogues, setting etc. Generally, narrator is the author, or the character/s in the story. In poetry and fiction, narrative is told by the narrator, whereas in a play or film, narrative is presented on stage or captured in the camera.
Point of View in Literature
Author takes great care in presenting his/her viewpoint in literature. Since the evolution of modern novel, in the 18th century, authors have used different kinds of techniques to tell their story. Sometimes, they even use different kinds of Point of View to tell the same story. To determine narrative modes of fiction, Point of View has been classified into three categories.
The first person narrative uses first person pronoun to tell the story. The narrator in the story is “I” who participates in the story. The “I” character in the story may or may not be the author.
The second person narrative addresses the audience with second person pronoun. In this narrative mode, the story is told by someone who may not may not participate in the story. The second person narrative uses “you” character to tell the story.
In the third person narrative, narrator tells the story by using third person pronouns. The narrator refers to the character by he, she, they or even with their names. The narrator in the third person narrative does not participate in the story.
First person and third person are widely used narrative modes, whereas second person is rarely used Point of View.
First Person Narrative
In the first person narrative, the narrator is conspicuously the author, or the first person character the author has created to tell the story. The narrator is the participant of the story, he/she tells what is happening in his/her life, or someone close to him/her. The “I” in first person narrative is the witness of the events, or the central character.
Second Person Narrative
In the second person narrative mode, the story is told mainly as an address to the second person pronoun, i.e. “You.” “You” in the second person narrative could be the reader, author, or a character in fictional work. Second person narrative mode may appear in the few chapters or the entire book. Second person narrative mode is less frequent in fiction, and more readily used in instructional articles.
Third Person Narrative
The narrator is not evident in the third person narrative, however, tells the story through actions, thoughts and dialogues of the characters. There are two distinctions in third person narrative.
1. Third Person Omniscient
In the third person omniscient narrative mode, the narrator tells what is occurring in the foreground as well as what is happening in the background. The narrator in third person omniscient point of view, not only knows everything about the incidents and characters, but also can access the mind of all characters. The narrator freely moves to tell the stories of different characters. The narrator in third person omniscient narrative mode is a reporter and well as commentator.
2. Third Person Limited Point of View
In the third person narrative, the narrator is all knowing storyteller. However, in third person limited point of view, narrator does not know everything about all characters and incidents. The story is told in third person, but the narrator follows only one character or couple of characters. The narrator reports and comments only on the characters the narrator is following. Many modern writers use third person limited point of view to tell their story by using a techniques such as centre of consciousness and stream-of-consciousness.
Write in third person omniscient – A checklist
- Why you want to write in third person omniscient?
Do you recognize your all characters with flesh and bones?
- Can you read the minds of your all characters?
- Do you have control over the situations and events?
- Can you create believable characters that differ from one another?
How to Write in Third Person Omniscient
Beginning with the 20th century, writers began to switch their narrative mode from third person omniscient to third person limited point of view. These days many writing instructors will tell you to use third person limited point of view in your narratives. However, modern writing is about breaking the rules and thinking outside the box. Here are tips on how to write in third person omniscient.
In the third person omniscient mode, you have to be clear about your all characters’ actions and thoughts. Since you are presenting viewpoint of your all characters, you have to maintain clarity. Don’t mess one character with the other. You can switch between the characters, but remember tone and mood of the point of view have to be different.
Know your characters
The third person omniscient point of view means you know everything about the story and the characters. Since you are using third person omniscient mode, you have to create distinction between the characters. You have names for your characters, and you must use appropriate third person pronouns. You report: X hits Y in a public place. You comment, how X feels, and why Y actually hit X.
The basics of third person omniscient narrative
- Outline the story
- Set the scene or atmosphere
- Choose a tone or mood of the story
- Define the characters
Each character must have a distinct voice
Each character must have a motive
- Create conflict between the characters
- Mental conflict of the characters is important
- It is not necessary to present viewpoint of every character
- Be plausible with the story and the characters, even if it is a fantasy
What kind of point of view do you prefer while writing (or reading)?
Maintain consistency in your narrative mode as you switch between the characters. As a writer, you know what the other character is thinking, but how will X know what Y is planning to do. X does not know about Y unless Y (or Z) reveals, or in the course of time X finds out himself.
Alternate your narrative with dialogues, scene descriptions, actions, and the thoughts of the character. Switch from one character to another. You can use minor character, such as a taxi driver, who may not appear again, to illuminate the event or the main characters.
Maintain a detached perception, don’t feel empathy or sympathy for the characters. Let the readers decide if the character is sympathetic or unsympathetic. As a writer, you would obviously put forward your perspective, but segregate the authorial voice with the narrator’s tone.
When you write in third person omniscient mode, you will have control over your characters. However, do not switch to different viewpoints in the same paragraph. Remember, an omniscient narrator cannot be here, there, everywhere at the same time, even though, the narrator knows everything.
As a writer, you know what is going to happen next. However, in your third person omniscient narrative, you don’t have to reveal everything in the first place. You are following a character and suddenly he is hit by a car. You now switch to the woman driving the car, and reveal how the accident occurred. In omniscient narrative, you even have an advantage to reveal the motive of the action in the 15th chapter, which actually occurred in the 4th chapter.
Third person limited point of view
- Pain of Being a Woman
A small town woman in western Nepal shares her story of pain and sufferings. A short story inspired by true events depicts the wretched conditions of Nepali women.
Third Person Omniscient Point of View
- Short Story: She Had a Dream
She was queer and insane, and he hated her. But what will he do when he knows about her true feelings. A short story set in Kathmandu explores life of university students.
First Person Point of View
- A Gardener’s Tale
All his life he lived in Kathmandu, but he found true love when he went to live with his mother and father. A shot story that explores the conditions of identity crises and the life in the Nepali farm.