Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An Omniscient View

Is it just me and The Famous Author, or do others find this hard to understand -- very popular writers selling hundreds of thousands of books in an omniscient point of view? You're reading about three strangers in a room, talking or doing something, and you -- as the reader -- know what all three are thinking, where all three went to grammar school, and what each one wants from the meeting.

It is SO hard to read, at least for me and TFA. We get tossed out of the story EVERY time the writer does it. Judging by sales numbers, I'm guessing a lot of you readers out there don't give a hoot what POV a book is written in, or who's thinking what, as long as the story keeps moving.

I understand. I'm currently halfway through a Clive Cussler book that is very hard for me to read -- and yet, I keep going because there is so darn much action, so many twists, so many evil bad guys, I can't stop despite the difficulty. I press on, certain that my efforts will be rewarded with another thrill.

Since my first critique about thirty years ago, I have been told the omniscient POV is a no-no. A big rule not to break while crafting fiction. In fact, as part of the staff of Writers Retreat Workshop next spring, I will be telling new writers they should never, ever, ever use an omniscient POV. I will pick things from their manuscripts and say, "You can't say that. So and so, who is telling us the story, wouldn't know that."

And they will say to me. "But Clive Cussler does it."

It's a good argument, but it fails to take something major into account: Clive Cussler has been selling tons of books for decades. His fan base makes him a bestseller with every new release. New writers have to find an agent, and then sell their first book to a publisher, and then hope readers will embrace them. How much harder will these things be if your writing reads like someone who's never studied the craft?

Then again, craft might be overrated. I remember throwing BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY across the room after two pages. A cliche' in every sentence. It sold millions, got turned into a big movie, and made its author a celebrity. A celebrity who has since studied craft and now writes better books, incidentally.

Maybe it's all about THE STORY. Comments anyone? I'm confused.


Anonymous said...

I have a (many-times) published author friend who keeps beating that into me, when I point out how this writer or that writer broke this rule or wrote that trash. It's the story, he keeps saying. It's the story.

I still have to believe it's a magic combination, though...otherwise I'm wasting lotsa time studying and practicing this crazy craft!

Happy holidays to you both from snowy NH - wishing I was back on a FL beach. What you won't do for family...

jnantz said...

I gotta agree with Beth. It's a combination of Story, craft, and VOICE. The most well-written thing in the world, from the most dry and boring person in the world, still won't get me. Technically correct + well-crafted + dull = stopped reading before I lost too many of the precious few reading hours I have to some character I don't like enough to care about.

That's the new math...for me anyway....