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Hello World!  Part III


Here we are, the last way to introduce your world to your readers.  It is not so much a technique as it is a writing style.  The third-person omniscient narrator. 

You will find plenty examples of this type of writing in epic fantasy novels (J.R.R. Tolkien, and Sarah Douglass are good examples) and space operas in the science fiction genres (forgive me for not naming names, but I’m not familiar with this type of sci-fi enough to recommend).  The techniques for introducing the world to the readers are rather straight forward, but bear mentioning because that’s what this is all about. 

The first technique is sweeping, extravagant description.  I would like to point out that description is a big part of writing, and appears in every story no matter what the point of view.  In first-person point of view and third person limited point of view, the descriptions are confined to what the main character can see and what they would notice, adding to the characterization of the character.  For instance, the hardnosed detective is going to notice quite different things than the college student who just discovered magic is real.  With third person omniscient narration a good place to start thinking about descriptions is the bird’s eye view, the long-distance view.  This p.o.v. isn’t anchored to one, singular spot or person, but sees everything.  It is also not anchored to one spot in time either, so these sweeping, extravagant descriptions, can start with how something might have looked in the past, or how it will look in the future before settling on the present and coming down to what the characters in the story are doing.  In looking at the world from above, from different times (past and present), a writer can freely introduce a reader to the world.

Another technique of the third-person omniscient narrator is switching to different characters.  Being everywhere and all-knowing, the narrator can focus in on several different characters to show how different pieces of the story fit together or operator in synch (or at least tandem) with other parts.  Again, this opens up the world of the story for the reader.  If one of the characters you follow is upper class, and another is poor, it shows two different versions of the world in which the story is taking place.  Every new character that a third person omniscient narrator follows shows off another facet of the world of the story. 

I would like to state that each of these narration styles that I’ve mentioned in the past three posts have their strengths and weaknesses.  The obvious weakness for the first-person point of view and third person limited is the fact that if the main character isn’t there then they can’t know about something that happened, but then that can be strength in the adding-suspense-part of the story.  Where as third person omniscient narration can seem detached from the story, and authors run the risk of inserting their own voice and opinions into the voice of the narrator. 

Ultimately, you should pick the type of narration that works for you and your story.  Play around with each, experiment, and it’s okay if the choice changes throughout your writing life, or even from story to story.

Be yourself, be well.  Write yourself, write well.