Third Person Omniscient
It took Peter two months to work up the courage to ask Nora out. She was so delicate looking, so frail, her skin translucent. How could a
beer-and-football guy like Pete ever impress Nora Danzer? When he was ready at last, he wrote an invitation on a whimsical Sandra Boyton
card and left it on her desk with a single daffodil.
She had grown up with brothers who thought that “fun” was any outdoor game that left scabs. She liked rowdiness, laughter,
rude humor and general silliness. (Note: telling more than showing - also tells us something she probably would not say about herself
– unlikely she would think of her taste as “crude”)
If only each had known that the other slept through most of Tess.
As an omniscient narrator, you float over the landscape wherever you want, moving from place to place in the twinkling of an eye,
like Superman taking Lois out for a flight. You can show the reader every character’s thoughts, dreams, memories; you can let the reader
see any moment of the past or future. Only in third person omniscient could make a statement like “If only each had known…..” The
omniscient narrator sees the world through the wrong end of the binoculars. The reader is outside looking in – never get deeply involved
with the characters. The readers see everything through the lens of the omniscient narrator.
Omnicient is when someone OTHER than a character is telling the story. The key is – It’s the stuff the character doesn’t know. Can there be a
uthor intrusion in omni? It is not recommended. You should stay in narrator POV and stay in character – voice consistent & relevant. It’s NOT e
xplaining why/how/what so the reader gets it. What makes omni POV work is the narrator. An invisible narrator has a much harder time avoiding
a “told” feel, because it can easily come across as author intrusion.
Limited Third Person Narrative/ Viewpoint Character (also called Deep Third Person)
Pete got to work at seven-fifteen so he could leave the flower and the card for Nora without anybody watching. He filled the bud vase with
water from the drinking fountain, put the daffodil in it, set the vase on Nora desk, and leaned the envelope against it.
Nora had never seen nouvelle cuisine before. To her the half-empty plate looked like someone in the kitchen had decided to put her on diet.
(tells us something that an outside narrator could not possibly know)
She liked guys who knew how to have a good time, get a little rowdy, have some laughs. She thought of telling him the joke about Mickey Mouse
and Minnie Mouse getting a divorce, but she knew a guy like Pete would never appreciate a punch line like that. (shows an example of how she
likes “crude” humor.)
The limited third-person narrator, is led through the story by one character, seeing only what that character sees; aware of what that character
(viewpoint character) thinks and wants. You CAN switch viewpoint characters from time to time, but trading viewpoints require a clear division
– a chapter break or a line space. Never change viewpoint character in mid-scene.
The limited third-person strategy is to trade time for distance. The reader gets a deeper, more intense involvement through the eyes of the
viewpoint character. Limited third-person is the overwhelmingly dominant narrative voice in American fiction today.
First Person Past Tense – not going into detail here but it is pretty straight forward.
(Pete) I got to work at seven-fifteen so I could leave …..
(Nora) I had never seen nouvelle cuisine before.
Dialogue Death Sentences
Redundancy happens when we repeat something in our dialogue that we’ve already written in either narrative or action
He shook his head. “No.”
Unless our character needs to add extra emphasis to their denial, the action or the dialogue alone is usually enough. Let’s look at a sneakier example of redundancy.
Rob glanced at the clock on the wall. Three at last. Time for him to go. He popped his head into Joan’s office.
“It’s three. I’m heading out. Want me to lock up?”
The redundancy here isn’t as exact as in the previous example, but it still makes for boring, flabby writing. We could tighten it to read…
Rob glanced at the clock on the wall. Three at last. He popped his head into Joan’s office. “I’m heading out. Want me to lock up?”
Redundancy can also happen big-picture. If, for example, we’re going to have a character cracking a safe, we don’t need to have them
explain the whole process to another character before it happens. That makes it boring for the reader to then have to sit through the
description of our character actually cracking the safe (even if something goes wrong). We shouldn’t bore our readers to death by redundant dialogue.
Death Sentence #2 – Orphaned Dialogue
Any time we confuse the reader, it’s a bad thing because we destroy their immersion in the story. If we confuse them enough
times, our book goes in the donate pile or gets deleted from their e-reader and they move on to someone else. When it comes to writing dialogue, one of the most common crimes is to leave our dialogue orphaned, with no one to claim it. This abandonment comes in two types.
(A) Dialogue where we’re not sure who’s speaking. I suspect this usually happens because, as writers, we know exactly who’s speaking. We forget the reader can read only our words, not our minds. If we have more than three lines of unattributed dialogue in a row (dialogue without a tag like said or an action beat), we can risk the reader losing track of who’s speaking. If we have a scene with multiple speakers, we need to be certain it’s clear who each line of dialogue belongs to. An unattributed line of dialogue could belong to anyone present.
But the sneakiest of all is when we write about two characters in the same paragraph and then tack on a line of dialogue at the end.
Ellen waved her arm above her head, and Frank sprinted towards her. “I’ve missed you.” Who said “I’ve missed you”? It could be Frank or it could be Ellen, and the reader has no way to tell which one it really is.
(B) Dialogue where we don’t find out until then end who’s speaking…and we probably guessed wrong about the speaker’s identity.
AVOID dialogue like this… “We have come to witness our finest warriors compete. Scythia offers their best to us, so we offer them no less,” the queen said.
By the time the reader reaches the tag at the end, they’ll have consciously or subconsciously made an assumption about who’s speaking. If they
guessed wrong, it throws them off balance. When we have long passages of dialogue, it’s usually best to either begin with a beat, so readers know who’s talking before they start, or to place a beat or tag at the first natural pause. “We have come to witness our finest warriors compete,” the queen said. “Scythia offers their best to us, so we offer them no less.” Don’t leave dialogue abandoned on the side of the road. It’s just cruel.
Flash Fiction: 1000 words or less Short Story: 7,500 words or less
Novellette: 7,500-17,500 words Novella: 17,500 to 40,000
Novel: 40,000 or greater Each genre also has a specific size
Suspense 65,000 - 75,000
Romantic Suspense 40,000 - 120,000
Historical Romance 40,000 - 95,000
Series Romance 80,000 - 140,000
Futuristic/Paranormal 80,000 - 100,000
Inspirational Romance 80,000 - 120,000
Romantic Comedy 40,000 - 70,000
Literary 100,000 - 120,000
Mainstream 100,000 - 120,000
Women's Fiction 75,000 - 90,000
Chick-Lit 65,000 - 95,000
Cozy / Amateur Sleuth 60,000 - 90,000
Hard Boiled 80,000 - 100,000
Political Procedural 60,000 - 80,000
Westerns 65,000 - 75,000
Thrillers 80,000 - 120,000
Adventure 100,000 - 140,000
Historical 100,000 - 140,000
Inspirationa 80,000 - 100,000
Middle Grade 10,000 - 15,000
Picture Books 200 - 800
Young Adult 35,000 - 50,000
Science Fiction 80,000 - 120,000
Fantasy 75,000 - 100,000
Horror 100,000 - 120,000
Paranormal 80,000 - 120,000