The Challenges and Opportunities of an Omniscient POV

Celeste Ng

Kevin Day Photography

The most prevalent point-of-view used by writers today is the third-person limited POV (sometimes spread across multiple characters), as well as the first-person POV.

It’s pretty rare to find a contemporary novel written with an omniscient narrator—which is why Celeste Ng found it a terrifying realization, while writing her first novel, that her story required one. She says:

The idea made me incredibly uncomfortable. To me, omniscient narrator called to mind the Dickens model: a Big Booming Voice who bossed the characters around, a know-it-all who judged everything. Someone very unlike me. As a shy person, I’d always rather listen than talk, and I seldom feel comfortable making definitive pronouncements.

But she found a way of thinking about it that made it work. Click here to read her entire essay on the “quiet” omniscient narrator, which appears in the latest Glimmer Train bulletin.

Other pieces in the bulletin:

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Posted in Creativity + Inspiration and tagged , , , .

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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