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A (very slow) breakthrough regarding the pond novel and omniscience
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’m in the middle of a conceptual breakthrough on the pond novel, and I still am. It’s maybe less of a breakthrough and more of a realization suspended in time; I know what I am realizing, but I haven’t given it enough sustained attention to do anything about it yet, because my writing sessions are currently spent on the glass house novel. But when I’m ready to get back into the pond novel on a daily basis, I will have a plan.
The first part of the realization is this: we1 have a POV problem. Anna and I decided at the beginning that the POV was third-person omniscient, but this POV has been very hard for me to achieve because I have basically zero practice writing in it, and I don’t usually read novels written in it either. I keep wanting to slip into close third but then stepping back because I’m supposed to be writing omniscient and what’s happening instead is this very boring narration that basically has no POV.
I realized this a while ago but didn’t know what to do about it.
Then! The second part of the realization came about thanks to this “craftwork” episode of the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast, featuring guest Gina Frangello, called How to Use the Editorial Omniscient POV.
Gina’s description of this POV is basically the same definition I would have given for a plain old omniscient narrator — able to describe any character’s actions and thoughts, able to move freely in space and time, able to tell us things the characters don’t know — but calling it “the editorial omniscient” unlocked something for me. Oh yes, this narrator should be able to editorialize. They should have their own opinions, maybe even their own agenda. They should not be objective (even if they think they are) because no one is objective. I used to take classes at The Writers Studio, and there we called it the “persona narrator” — the third-person narrator who is not the character and is not the author but has their own distinct voice.
A story on its own may not be inherently interesting; narration infused with personality is one of the best tools to make it so. This is why so many of us love our first-person narrators. And Gina makes the point toward the end of the podcast that editorial omniscience can be taken so far that it basically comes back around and feels like the first person. I don’t think that’s where the pond novel needs to go, but I do think I need to give the narrator more freedom to tell the reader what they think, to digress, to look away from the linear progression of the plot for a moment. And taking my time with this breakthrough, really sitting in it for a while, is making me excited to return to that manuscript when the time is right.
It’s my birthday today! In addition to standing with the WGA, you can celebrate with me by sharing The Next Novel with someone who might like it.
The next round of #1000wordsofsummer starts June 17. I am beginning to prep — more on that in the coming weeks. If you would like to finish or kickstart a project in June, maybe join us?