Is Omniscient POV Dying?

Gilbert Morris The River Rose

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

A couple months ago, I was excited to be offered a chance to read and review Gilbert Morris’ The River Rose. The River Rose is a historical romance about a woman steamboat captain in 1850, and Gilbert Morris co-authored my favorite series of books during my late high school and early university years, the Cheney Duvall, M.D. series.

I love a clean read (referring to content rather than editing). I love a strong female protagonist. And I love a detail-rich world. The River Rose gave me all of these, and yet, I found myself disappointed.

Because of my great respect for this author, for all he’s achieved, and for the Cheney Duvall series, which still makes me laugh and continues to sit on my shelf of favorites after all these years, I refuse to publicly speak ill of this book, especially since I think the problem is one of personal preference.

I don’t like omniscient POV.

I’ll write more about point of view (POV) in another series of posts, but here’s a basic way to think of it.

When we’re young, our mothers or fathers or grandparents tell us stories. They’ll tell us what each character is thinking or feeling at any moment. They’ll even tell us things the characters don’t yet know. They’re all-knowing in the story world.

And we’re alright with that because we don’t want to experience the story as if we were one of the characters. We want to be safely watching from a distance while our loved one gives us the big picture view.

This used to be the case in most fiction 100 years ago. It would have been improper somehow to poke intimately into a stranger’s story, and we weren’t that far removed from the days when most people were illiterate and the majority of stories were still told orally. Omniscient POV was the norm.

But as we grow and as our society changed, we no longer want to be told a story. We want to see it and live it. We gobble up reality TV. We watch movies in 3-D. Our video games are using cameras to capture our movements to power avatars we created to look like us. We now want stories written in first person or in intimate third person (deep POV). We want to feel like we’re part of the story. At least, I do. I’ll be one of the first standing in line when they create a Star Trek-style holodeck.

So it’s not simply The River Rose. I felt the same way about Rachel Aaron’s excellently written Spirit Thief series. Despite the unique plot and beautiful language, I couldn’t connect.

Even though omniscient POV shouldn’t be confused with the head-hopping that will get your book rejected by agents and readers alike, to my brain, conditioned to first person and intimate third person styles, I felt jarred out of the story whenever I was told something the character I was currently trying to identify with couldn’t possibly know. I subconsciously sought that identification even once I figured out the book used omniscient POV.

Many genres still embrace omniscient POV, including historical fiction, so I’m sure other people will love this book. For these reasons, I’m excited to be able to give away a copy to one person today (US only). Share this post and leave a comment to be entered.

Do you feel the same way about omniscient POV? Do you think we’ll see less and less of it in the coming years or do you think, like many fashion trends, it’ll be back?

I hope you’ll check out the newly released mini-books in my Busy Writer’s Guides series–Strong Female Characters and How to Write Faster–both currently available for 99 cents.

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