Monday, July 28, 2014

Is OMNI Your Man


If the narrator of your story needs to stay outside the action, then Omni is the right POV. Michener chose Omni in his epic novels for that very reason. He wanted Hawaii, Alaska, and Texas to each stand alone as the all-important protagonist. Choosing 3rd or 1st person for any one of these works would have created an intimacy between reader and narrator that would have lessened the impact and importance of Hawaii, Alaska, or Texas as the leading character.

In less formal stories, Omni creates a problem for many writers because they believe it gives them license to head-hop. Many writers have shown me text that states Omni is a god-like character telling the events of a story that only he or she knows.

Therefore, why can’t they head-hop? 

There’s a difference between God telling you what John and Julie are thinking versus “John and Julie” telling you. The trick is to always remember Omni, a unique and distinct character, is telling the reader what Jack thought or did or felt. It’s not Jack showing them. That’s why Omni not only is able to tell you what Jack thinks of Steve driving drunk, but can also show you the police car waiting up the road, or the innocent bystander using the crosswalk ahead of them. Omni switches from one point of view character to the next in a smooth, gentle fashion that your reader will very quickly learn to trust.

While Omni is more formal and less intimate, on the grand scale of things, as in epics like Michener’s, Omni is your man. One suggestion though, when choosing Omni, make him a unique, formidable, and intriguing character. Give him a voice just as entertaining and endearing as any character. Or make him as non-descriptive as possible. And limit head hopping. Every time a writer jumps from one protagonist in a scene into the head of another, they risk disrupting the intimate (there’s that word again) relationship forming between reader and character.


joylene
@cluculzwriter



22 comments:

Pat Hatt said...

Very good point indeed, all that head hopping can get confusing.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

And it's sad to see when the story is actually good. Thanks, Pat.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

While I don't write in first person because I don't want to be inside my character's head THAT much, I think omniscient feels too disconnected. You really have to know what you're doing to do it right as well.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

That's so true, Alex. That's why I love studying the masters. Love and War is a perfect learning tool. And Michener. There are so many more.

Loni Townsend said...

Omniscient is difficult for me to read, but I suppose voice has a huge impact on that. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'm not a big fan of the omni view. It really needs a strong voice.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Loni and Diane, you're right to feel that way. If done incorrectly, Omni spoils the reading experience. But it has its place and learned correctly can really produce an excellent read. It's a great challenge for whoever's up to it.

J.L. Campbell said...

Tweeted this, Joylene. Good advice for those who choose to write from this POV.

Christine Rains said...

Wonderful post with great advice. Head hopping can get on my nerves.

Marsha said...

I'm so surprised to see this. In any of the romance genres, OMNI is never your man. (Well, almost never, since I never like to say never. :)) Older authors used Omni, but not so much anymore. Can't tell you how many judges wacked me for that when I first started. Cozy mysteries that may have only a hint of romance frequently are frequently written in first person and straight mysteries, but most romance is 3rd person and deep POV at that. Very interesting post. Show how you have to know the rules for what you're writing. I'll FB & Tweet.

Michael Di Gesu said...

So true, Joylene.

Writing in omni is very difficult. I did for my first fantasy novel and got accused of head hopping on more than one occasion. It took me years to fix that problem... Although I love this style of writing, I will limit myself to writing it until I can master it... if ever.

Debra McKellan said...

I'm surprised so many don't like reading omni. If it's a great story, I don't even really notice the POV. Now if it's a bad one, it's very clear. lol

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

@Thanks so much, Joy.

@Chrstine, thanks!

@Marsha, for years I could only read OMNI because I found it allowed me to step into the narrator's shoes easier. Thankfully, I've graduated from that to 1st. But I use them all, depending on the story.

@Michael, I feel the same way. I like 3rd, but am finding 1st intriguing

@That's so true, Debra. The writing makes the read easy or hard.

Cher Green said...

Wonderful post. Each POV has its place and time. It's useful to have a good understanding of each one, so you won't get stuck in one limited method of telling a story. Thanks for sharing.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I always think of Omni as being used in a 'big' story. Michner's works are perfect examples.

cleemckenzie said...

I agree with Susan. The epics and sagas seem to lend themselves to omni POV. I'm fine with it as long as the hopping is controlled by scenes. If there's jumping from one head to the other without any system, I have a hard time following where I am and why.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

@Thanks Cher, and thanks for visiting.

@Thanks, Susan.

@Lee, you and me both. Thanks for visiting.

Michelle Wallace said...

Omni seems to work well with "epic" stories written by the "greats"... they know what they're doing!
I'm not saying that the "mere mortals" aren't capable of writing in this POV...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Joylene .. thanks for posting - opened my eyes to something I'd never thought about .. but then I don't write books .. fascinating to learn about ..

Cheers Hilary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

@Michelle, I've been writing many years and I've never felt the need to write in OMNI. Love reading OMNI voice though. Go figure.

@Hilary, thanks! I love your blog, so helping you is a huge lift.

J Q Rose said...

I must have been reading some omni style books and didn't realize it until now. I was trying to pigeon hole everyone into using first or third POV, so no wonder the storytelling confused me. Thanks for this info.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

You're very welcome, Janet. Have a great Sunday.