How to Successfully Write Omniscient POV

omniscient POVBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

In January, Jami Gold had a great post on whether or not omniscient POV would ever be popular again. I’ve been thinking about that post ever since because some people responded to Jami by saying they liked omniscient POV. I received the same response when I talked about why I think omniscient POV is dying. Some people still enjoy it.

Some of you may even want to write in it.

In case you’re not sure what I’m talking about, omniscient POV is when the story is told by an all-knowing narrator. That all-knowing narrator is the author, and the story is told in his or her voice rather than in any particular character’s voice. (For more on point of view, click here.)

If you’re thinking about writing in omniscient POV, there are three criteria you need to meet to make it work.

(1)   A story that can’t be told any other way.

I like to use Rachel Aaron’s Legend of Eli Monpress books as the perfect example of this. Even though I’m not a fan of omniscient POV, I wouldn’t have wanted her to write her books in third person because of what she would have lost.

She created a world where everything—even dead, inanimate items—have a “spirit” in them. In The Legend of Eli Monpress, we’re allowed to peek into the mind of a door, a regular rat, and many other creatures and objects you wouldn’t normally be able to have as point of view characters. These creatures and objects aren’t prominent characters, and so in a third person limited POV, we’d never be able to hear from them, but hearing from them is part of what makes her books so fascinating.

To give us the full experience of her world and stories, she had to write in omniscient POV. Her stories couldn’t have been fully told in any other way.

(2)   A unique voice.

Voice is a little hard to define, but basically what we’re talking about when we talk about a writer’s voice is the distinctive way they string words together.

What types of imagery do they gravitate toward?

Is their writing serious? Quirky? Snarky? Funny?

What type of rhythm or cadence do they naturally use?

Every choice we make from the profanity level in our work to the amount and level of description contributes to our voice. If you pull three different authors off your bookshelf and read the first page of their book, you should be able to recognize their individual voices. If I then showed you another passage from one of those writers and made you guess who it was from, if they have a strong voice, you should be able to identify the author.

In other POVs, your readers need to connect with and care about your point of view character(s). The story is told in their voice (or voices). Your voice is there, but it’s less prominent. In omniscient POV, the reader needs to invest in you, the author, and your way of saying things. Your voice is the only voice. They continue reading because they want to hear how you in particular tell the story.

This is one of the main reasons why newer writers shouldn’t usually start out their writing career by attempting omniscient POV. Voice takes time to develop.

And some writers never develop a strong, distinctive voice. That doesn’t mean they can’t write good books. It does mean they shouldn’t write in omniscient POV.

Because this is such an important element of omniscient POV, my next post in this series is going to be on developing your voice.

(3)   Know the difference between omniscient POV, head-hopping, and telling.

Stay tuned! I’ll be covering this in detail after we talk about developing your voice. Being able to distinguish between these three is the crux of writing in omniscient POV.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction, I’m teaching a 90-minute webinar on October 26th. It’s regularly $45, but if you use the discount code MarcyShowTell, you’ll receive 15% off.

My good friend Lisa Hall-Wilson is teaching a class on how to write in deep POV on the same day, so we’ve also gotten together to offer what we’re calling a 2Fer. If you’d like to take both classes, you can get them in a package deal, saving you 20% off what the classes would cost if you signed up for both separately. Click here for more details.

And remember that you can also pick up my mini-book Strong Female Characters: A Busy Writer’s Guide for only 99 cents!

Have you thought about writing in omniscient POV? What’s your biggest concern that’s holding you back?

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Image Credit: Loredana Bejerita via