My Writing Process 8: Narrative POV

Sometimes one of the greatest hurdles when it comes to writing a novel or short story comes from deciding the method with which to tell it. And although you’d think that was fairly straightforward, sometimes it’s not.

To get this out of the way, most stories are told from a point of view that we call “Selective Omniscience”. This is a form of non-participant third person narration in which the narrator knows everything that happens in your world, but chooses not to tell you it all. This is the style that all the Engen novels are written in to date, with the exception of select passages (ie: Mandy’s journal). In this, the narrator can skip time, go back in time, see what’s in a characters head, and switch the camera to a different narrator at any point it chooses.

It’s often confused with regular old Omniscience. The key difference is that with Omniscience, that narrator knows everything and actually tells you. This works for epics like the Odyssey and Beowolf, but not for everyday fiction. Can you imagine a murder mystery that started with the line: “David Nesbit looked suspicious, for he had just killed his wife Debra.”

It doesn’t work. So, our omniscient narrator is selective in what he tells us, for all our benefits. So, we’re clear on this.

Now before I get a bunch of hateful comments, I’m aware that this may not be the most used form of narration. Sorry if that was confusing. It’s simply the type I use most. There is a third type of non-participant narration that also gets used a lot called Objective narration, in which the narrator is basically a camera in the room that coldly and dispassionately records the events going on. This isn’t my favorite method by any means, but it will get the job done.

Other forms of narration exist in participant narration. This is when the narrator is actually a character in the story, and is typically told from the first person. It can be done via a major character (Bag of Bones) or a minor character (One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest). It doesn’t matter. It’s your story.

There are of course many sub-forms of narration I plan on tackling, like letter narration and monolog narration, but I just kind of wanted to introduce this more academic explanation early on. The thing to remember here is that you aren’t limited. It’s your story and you can do, really, whatever you want with it. So go nuts.

Hope this helps on some level.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

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