As many of you know, I like to make people think. It’s something my dad taught me years ago that’s only grown stronger as I’ve aged. Is it a good thing? I think so, but that’s only my opinion.
One opinion I have when it comes to writing is that we need to pick what works best for us. While the only set rules in writing are grammar rules to an extent (Ever see how many opinions there are for passive voice? Sheesh!), the biggest one to me is choosing our style. When writing, we’re creating our own universe, so, in the words of Bob Ross, “Have some fun with it. You can do whatever you want.”
Now, that doesn’t mean ignore all the advice and tips out there. Most of us are in the business of selling books, and writing within what is considered popular helps. But when does that hinder us?
A perfect example are the countless “How to write” blog posts and websites available to us. It’s an information overload, so I like to rely on what I learned while network marketing: Mold yourself after the best.
Sounds simple, right? It is, until we cite a bestseller or household name and hear responses like, “That’s so and so, they can do what they want.” Or, “That’s them. I’m not them.” Both of these have valid points as. Yes, household names can do pretty much what they want with their books, and yes, we’re not them. Aside from that, there isn’t a huge difference. Honestly, I’ve read some Indie books that would give the best established authors a run, but that’s another post for another day.
You see, we all learn how to write and tell a story by reading. The ebbs and flows, the climaxes and red herrings are all things we pick up on how to deliver through reading. For detractors of that theory, it’s interesting to point out how those teaching how to write learned the basics by reading.
So, I think it’s safe to say when anyone starts out writing, they emulate what they’ve read. I know I did, and always will to some point. Whether we like it or not, everything we’ve read becomes a part of our style.
And that’s also what gets me a little fired up at times.
You see, I love reading authors’ blogs, especially the ones about writing and what inspires them. It’s awesome to see different takes on writing that I may incorporate, as well as why others have followed their dreams.
One how to title that always gets me is the “Most Common Mistakes by Newbie Writers” posts and the hundred or so variations scattered everywhere. For the most part, they have some excellent tips, but they also are sharing the author’s opinions on what, or what not, to do.
Seriously. How many say avoid flashbacks, dream sequences, story building, character building, head hopping? There are plenty of others as well as things we should do.
The part that I do appreciate is how there is nearly always a section saying how to do this or that better, or why not to do it. That’s informative. However, those are also the parts that are missing when the term “head hopping” is used (Hence this and the next three posts).
More times than not, all that accompanies it is, “It’s confusing for the readers”, “Scene breaks should be used between POV shifts”, “Readers feel distant from the characters”, and “it’s hard to do” (Yes, there are more, but these are what I’ve seen the most). That’s about the limit of the author offering help with a new writer trying to hone their style. Ever wonder why?
Honestly, a couple of my first thoughts are the one writing the advice doesn’t know how to write in Omniscient or they don’t like it and won’t offer needed advice. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know there are tons of other reasons why they don’t add more. I lean more toward these because they nearly always try to push people into using Limited or Multiple Selective. It’s about a comfort zone and having everyone follow the same template.
I’ve written more than a handful of posts going into detail with Third Person Omniscient, so I won’t bore you with that again (Until next week. See what I did there? :D). Instead, I’ll cover the reasons Iisted above.
- Reading Omniscient isn’t really confusing. We’ve all read books written in that style in school. What may make it confusing, and this is just my opinion, is that people aren’t used to seeing it anymore, though judging from the amount of writers that start out using it and the fact it’s gaining in popularity, I think that’s more of an industry forcing a square peg in a round hole thing. Who really knows?
- Using scene or chapter breaks makes it Third Person Multiple Selective or Limited. Those are the preferred styles publishers have pushed for twenty years, and people have grown used to reading books like that. By separating the characters’ POVs, it’s supposed limit confusion (telling the reader whose eyes they’re looking through) and heighten the emotional attachment to the character.
- Feeling distant from the characters is part of Omniscient, but Omniscient also allows the reader to get into any character’s thoughts and experiences at any time instead of being limited to a single character’s viewpoint.
- It’s hard to do. Sorry, but it’s not. There are two rules for writing Third Person Omniscient: When you go into a character’s head, you signify it by starting a paragraph with their name, doing an action with their head (scratch a nose, ear, eye, chin or have them nod).
The second rule is simply to make sure going into a character’s head moves the story forward. If a farmhand’s family doesn’t help the story, or a character’s thoughts don’t move it along, they must go. There is really only the Point of View of the Narrator, who dives into the difference character’s heads. There are also two styles, Objective (Fly on the wall witnessing the story) and Subjective (Where the narrator goes from one character to the other in a deep style.) This is often confused as Limited until there’s a POV shift.
One of the reasons this is labeled as hard to do is everyone points to JRR Tolkien. His books are masterpieces of the Objective style, but more than that, he had a poetic flow with his words that few, if any, can compete with. When comparing anything to his work, we will be found lacking unless we’ve a prodigy. It’s that simple.
Well, that’s about it for this post. I wanted to do a brief overview of some things I’ve noticed, and starting next week, I want to do a three week series delving deeper into the three third person writing styles I’ve listed above. I think it’s important that we continue to help those seeking to hone their craft as well as in other aspects, so I hope to expand this series into first and second person as well. I just hope I survive researching Second Person. lol
As always, feel free to ask questions or share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Until next time, my friends, let your imaginations fly! 🙂