Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Omniscient Narration

The mental image I had of Lisbeth Salander as I read The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo looked nothing like the girl on this book cover. I saw her vividly though, as clearly as if she were sitting across from me, riding downtown in the same subway car. Author Stieg Larsson did a wonderful job describing her appearance, and his characterizations were strong. So why didn't I ever feel a sense of intimacy with her?

I think the problem was Larsson's use of omniscient narration. When more than one character's inner thoughts and feelings are coming at me from the same page, I feel like I'm floating above the book. It's like watching the scenes unfold shoulder-to-shoulder with God, rather than from out the eyes of a character. Lisbeth Salander was a character I wanted badly to connect with, but I never really got there. Too many POVs stood between us.

My favorite books employ multiple POVs, but their success hinges on the fact that the authors allowed only one character-narrator per chapter. "The Witching Hour" by Anne Rice comes to mind. Rice shares the POV between several characters, two of which are central players Michael Curry and Rowan Mayfair. As each chapter filters through the perspective of one of these characters, the reader develops a strong, intimate bond with him or her. After reading that book, I felt closely connected to all the characters.

I've never attempted omniscient narration in my own writing. My short stories tend to be third person limited or first person narration. The novel I'm working on switches POV at the beginning of each new chapter.

What POV narration options do you prefer to write in?