Sunday, November 29, 2009

This Week's Practice Exercise

Omniscient Point of View(Version 4)

Prepared by: Patricia Johnson
Reposted on: November 29, 2009
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Exercise: In 400 words or less, shift the point of view (POV) between two characters within a single scene. Make the transitions between characters seamless, and let the narrator's voice show.
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This exercise requires you to be omniscient, to be in the head of more than one character at a time--indeed, even to know more than both characters put together.

This can be tricky. The narrator can reveal everything about the characters, action, places, and events, regardless of what specific people know. The author can enter every character's thoughts, unlike in the more commonly used third person limited POV, where the narrative is told from one particular character's viewpoint. Sometimes an author lapses into omniscient POV unintentionally while writing in limited POV.

Omniscient POV can lead to confusion if not done well. The author has to move seamlessly from one character's view to another, and orchestrate the narrative voice to avoid a tangle of information that seems to come from everywhere at once.

Here is an example of omniscient POV:

Robert thought it odd that his supervisor was waiting in his office. He bent over his secretary's desk and said, "Audrey, run the mail down right now, please." Robert was always one for covering bases, and sending his secretary out on an errand would insure she could not hear what was about to take place.


*Note that we read Robert's thoughts and also read the author's comment that Robert covers bases. This moves the focus away from
Robert and eases us into a transition to the secretary's POV:


Audrey was tired of being sent away from her desk so frequently. "Sure, Robert," she said. "I just took the mail two hours ago, though." She left the office, walking slowly. It was obvious enough to anyone that Robert was
in trouble. What made her angry was his thinking he could hide his problems with his boss by sending her out of the room.

*We see the scene from both Robert's and Audrey's POV, including the narrator's observations-- omniscient POV.
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Exercise: In 400 words or less, shift the point of view (POV) between two characters within a single scene. Make the transitions between characters seamless, and let the narrator's voice show.
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Critique by noting whether the transitions worked smoothly. Was the viewpoint fully omniscient? Was there evidence that the author has inside the head of both characters?


These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writing Workshop.

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