My current writing project utilizes an omniscient narrator to tell the story.
This is not something I have ever done before.
It also came up during my writer’s group meeting yesterday, as one of my fellow writers is also undertaking the same difficult journey in her new project.
Writing an omniscient narrator is, I’m finding, much more difficult than keeping the story limited to a single perspective at a time. While it does allow for significantly more freedom in points of view and observations that none of the characters necessarily know about, that freedom is also a double-edged sword (if you’ll excuse the cliche) in that too much freedom can actually be a bad thing.
When you’re allowed to go anywhere and observe anything you want, what’s to stop you from observing a pretty flower, or the traffic patterns of the nearby city, as long as they have something peripherally to do with the story?
My original intent was to have the narrator be a camera — to step back and write a story from a film-like perspective, where we see the action but do not necessarily see much insight into the characters’ thoughts. That went out the window quickly, as it turns out that thoughts and internal observations are a critical part of this tale. Not everything in this story can be told through dialogue and imagery, because this story is intensely personal for the main character.
As I’ve been writing (over 22,000 words as of today) the narrator has become a camera with a slightly quirky personality. I recently spent about 1,000 words describing the point of view of an inanimate object — that is, what that object did not do while other things were happening around and to it.
This particular project has a lot of characters, and one thing that the omniscient narrator allows me to do is to observe all of the most important ones at any given moment. I don’t have to wait for a chapter break or a scene break if I want to show someone else’s reactions, as long as they’re in the same room. This means that I do not have to overlap scenes if someone else’s perspective is important during an exchange. I am making sure not to jump to a different place and different portion of the cast without a scene break, because I think that would just be too confusing; but for the most part, it’s working quite well.
As I write this blog post, Act One of the story is complete and Act Two is just beginning. I didn’t actually expect Act One to carry me through 20,000 words, which is probably a good thing. The other characters that I’ve discovered along the way will contribute to making Act Two suitably complex as the main characters race to stop the thing that they want to stop before it happens (vague enough for you?) and loyalties start becoming unclear.
I’m hoping that in the next few weeks I will at last feel that I am able to disclose the details of the project that I’m working on, but I want to make sure that I can finish it (or at least come close) before I do. I don’t want to make any promises that I can’t keep.