Last week we explored the unwritten law that Science Fiction Is Supposed To Be Real, the first of several Science Fiction taboos I have come across and why I believed writers should ignore it. This week I’d like to take a look at the second of these taboos – Third Person Omniscient and share my thoughts on why I think more writers, especially Science Fiction writers, should use it.
Third Person Omniscient means that the narrator can see what’s going through any character’s head, and can dart about as the story requires. In essence, God is telling the story. God sees all and knows all and so does the reader.
Here is the second Science Fiction Taboo Writers Should Break
NO Third Person Omniscient
The reasons not to write third person omniscient are innumerable, and quite valid. Writing from this perspective is extremely difficult to get right and really easy to get magnificently, hilariously wrong. Trust me, I know from experience.
Third person omniscient was the go-to for many writers of classic literary and science fiction for many years. In recent years, however, fiction writers have opted for first person or limited third — in which only one person at a time gets to be a viewpoint character.
Here’s why I think this Science Fiction Taboo needs to be broken.
A really well-done third person omniscient can be an amazing story. Douglas Adams did a spectacular job with his 1979 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In it, he freely lets you know what the characters are thinking at any given moment. It was so popular that it spawned a 1981 BBC Television series as well as a 2005 movie.
“Stranger Than Fiction”, the 2006 movie starring Will Ferrell is another example of a well-done third person omniscient. Granted, it is a movie and not a book; however, the point is the same – done well, third person omniscient can be a wonderful and engaging way to weave a story’s tapestry.
Here are a few reasons why you might want to reconsider writing a third person omniscient point of view. These are from an article by Charlie Jane Anders entitled “How to Write an Omniscient Narrator If You’re Not Actually Omniscient Yourself”. She gives great examples of each of these points, so read the full article – it’s definitely worth your time.
- It’s easier to be funny with third person omniscient.
- It lets you info-dump (stay tuned for an up-coming blog).
- It gives you versatility.
- You can have a narrator with a personality.
- It lets you tell stories about more than one person.
What do you think? Is it okay to use third person omniscient? Would you write a story using this method?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can leave leave a comment here…