Basic Point of View, part two

Omniscient third person point of view was used widely several years ago and is still used sometimes in more literary fiction. It’s what it sounds like—an omniscient writer telling the reader what’s going on from their expanded, omniscient viewpoint. The omniscient writer knows what every person is thinking, what every person is doing.

For example, in omniscient point of view, the reader would find out Karen is being bored to death at the bar by a computer software engineer while Cissy is near the water fountain, fluttering her eyes at Hanson, who hasn’t told her he’s getting married next week to the party’s hostess.

Omniscient point of view has several problems. One, it’s not used these days in commercial fiction, so using it will often mark you as an amateur. Two, it distances the reader from the characters and dampens the emotional impact of the story.

You want to show an editor that you’re up to speed on current publishing trends, and emotion is what spurs the reader to engage in your story. So my advice is to not use omniscient unless you have a darn good reason for using it.

Limited third person point of view means the reader sees the entire scene through only one person’s eyes.

For example, Karen walks into a party. If we’re in Karen’s point of view, we’ll see how she views the party—the people she meets, the things she thinks about them, the terrible time she’s having. Karen doesn’t know that Cissy is on the other side of the room having a blast flirting with a hot blond model, so you wouldn’t write about Cissy—you’re in Karen’s point of view.

Deep third person takes limited third person a step further and draws the reader right into the character’s skin. It’s as immediate as first person point of view and is most commonly used in the publishing industry today. I wrote an entire series on deep point of view that I encourage you to check out.


  1. Cami, thank you. This is very concrete, practical help and I appreciate it.

  2. Fantastic series of articles. Kudos!

  3. I keep seeing people say omni isn't used much, and I keep finding books published recently where it's used. I think when it's done badly or poorly, it stands out, but when it's done right, no one notices--or attributes it to third. It works particularly well for plot-oriented books like thrillers.

    I did a workshop on viewpoint, and when I dug into omni, I was really surprised at how many books I had on my bookshelf that were in omni. To give you a couple of authors who write in omni: Terry Practchett and Clive Cussler. The Harry Potter books are in Close Third Omni, especially noticable in the opening of the stories where an outside narrator describes Harry.

    On the other hand, it is hard to do because there are distinct transitions that need to made when the author dips into the charcter's thoughts. If the transition isn't made, then it's easy to head hop. Word choice is important, because it's easy to be too personal when distance is needed.

  4. Linda, you bring up a good point about omni point of view. It was used extensively even just 10 years ago, but in the current publishing industry, it is not encouraged for new authors breaking in.

    Most of the omni POV novels being published now are by authors who have been published for years. When you've been around for that long, you can pretty much write whatever you want.

    However, for any unpublished author who is trying to become contracted for the first time, it's wise to adhere to current publishing trends, which is limited third person rather than omniscient.

    That's not to say that absolutely NO new writer will be contracted if they write omniscient point of view, but in general, your chances of being contracted are greater if you use limited third person instead of omniscient.



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