More on “Third Person Omnisicient Point of View” (OPOV) Narration

Many fiction writers create scenes that are somewhat unclear. I’ve read Hugo/Nebula winners works that do—regardless of POV—and that’s bad (unless “trippiness” is expressly the point of the scene, but I digress).

Plus, since third person omniscient point of view involves the changing of POV characters within a scene, (the consensus is) it is more difficult to do without making it confusing. This can all be stipulated.

However, just because it isn’t easy, doesn’t make it impossible or, indeed, even undesirable. There are stories best told in that fashion. And, frankly, when it is done well, it is powerful.

This is all to say: to my ears, when writers scold other writers en toto, for ever attempting to use OPOV (often deriding it as “head-hopping”), it sounds more than a little bit hysterical. Sort of like a checkers player decrying playing chess as “cheat-moving.”

Reviewing and Doing: More Three-Chapter Reviews (“Hidden Gem” Edition)

Welcome to my third set of THREE-CHAPTER REVIEWS, where I hope to answer that eternal question: “Should I keep reading this or not?” For an explanation of why I’m doing reviews of only three-chapters, refer to my previous post here.

In this episode, I will be reviewing the first three chapters of Near-Life Experience by Emma G. Rose, Eight God Engine by O. Josephs, and Girl Malfunctioned by Dustin Holloway. All three of these are self-published. All three are debut novels. Two of them were debut novels published last year—in other words, my cohort—while one (Emma Rose’s) was from the year before. Although, I would maintain, taking the pandemic into consideration, it’s all of a piece.

Continue reading “Reviewing and Doing: More Three-Chapter Reviews (“Hidden Gem” Edition)”

By The Way: Schizophrenia, What IS It?

Partially because I grew up in a birth family ravaged by the disease, I wrote a fantasy novel where I wanted the main character to have schizophrenia. This was in order to emphasize and reverberate the personal drama of the person and their family dealing with it against the dramatic tension of the plot. Making the internal stakes match the external ones.

More importantly, I wanted to portray that illness accurately and respectfully. People sometimes ask me what I mean by “accurately”. To answer that: Here* is a lecture that covers what schizophrenia is (and what it isn’t, which is far more prevalent in most shows/books).

Along these lines, I was interviewed by author Emma G. Rose, on her podcast, to talk about this very topic: Mental Health Tropes in Writing (although, the official title of the episode is Writing Mental Health Tropes, which inadvertently seems to signal approval. Please don’t be misled. In my opinion, most mental health tropes are neither good story-telling nor are they especially helpful to society at large).

Stay Safe,
_Mark

*- 23:00 to 59:00 of the video is “Schizophrenia 101”; whereas, after that , his lecture
veers into solid biology, with a focus on bio-chemistry.

Sturgeon’s Law in Action

Here’s the blurb from Tor.com’s latest tweet/ad for a novel they just published (review provided, of course, by Locus Magazine):

“What if Gandalf were…a second-class science bureaucrat
anxious not to contaminate the societies he is studying?
…What if Frodo were a 16-year-old princess?”

@locusmag
JFC.

Me to the Reviewer: “Well, I guess I’d just be goddamned confused, mostly.”

I mean—hey, who knows (I sure can’t tell from that pitch)—maybe it’s a fine book? But if I think too much about the kind of a world we live in where THAT’S how you’re supposed to sell it? That’s when I start to despair…

Time To Walk The Walk: RIP, Andrew Vachss (b. 1942) and RIP, 2021

The Universe™ really does have a way of showing you, doesn’t it?

Only a few hours ago, I was still swimming in my typical holiday/year-end blues. This year it was exaserbated by the ongoing End of the World™ (which—spoilers—turns out to be equal parts: environmental collapse, plague, and impending fascism) and I was topping it all off by fretting that I lacked the impetus to publish some kind of “2021 Wrap-up” blog post. Because, you know, the only thing better than a diary entry as self-therapy is feeling guilty for not doing one!

And, just as for many others, for me this was all amplified by the dread arrival of 2022; this is because, like the joke goes, it always looks darkest right before it goes completely black. 

Then I was forcibly refocused: I found out that one of my personal heroes, the great Andrew Vachss, had just died.

So, at least now I know my topic.

Andrew Vachss, HS Senior, 1960.

It isn’t an overstatement to say the man’s life was a study in heroism. During his formative young adult years—before becoming an attorney who represented strictly abused children—he held other front-line positions in child protection. He was a humanitarian aid activist in the Biarfran War, an U.S. Federal Investigator for STD tracking, and also a New York City social-services caseworker. He started and ran a self-help center for urban migrants in Chicago and directed a max-security prison for violent juvie offenders.

That was where he got the meat for his 1973 novel A Bomb Built in Hell. It was rejected by every publisher, one of whom described it as a “political horror story.” Others berated it for its “lack of realism”. But, get this:

…The subject matter was a child who entered his high school for the purpose of killing everyone. 

Continue reading “Time To Walk The Walk: RIP, Andrew Vachss (b. 1942) and RIP, 2021”

A Thought About OPOV

I dunno…too harsh? Naw!

Anyone in the #writingcommunity who believes that Omniscient POV within scenes—sans any commentary from the invisible narrator—(also known as, gasp, ‘head-hopping’) is inherently *bad* or archaic, should read just about any chapter (including the opening) of the novel Her Fearful Symmetry from Audrey Niffenegger (2009).*

And then, respectfully, they should STFU about it.

Per Brandon Sanderson:

“The last, and this is the hardest to do, but it is brilliant when it works. This is the Dune style. True, power omniscient, which is where you come in and say, ‘I’m going to withhold no information from the reader. I am going to show everyone’s thoughts. I am going to head hop.’ So in a given paragraph, you are limited. That’s it. Next paragraph could be another character’s viewpoint and thoughts, and jumping from person to person to person in a given scene.” (emphasis added)

Best, _Mark

*-And yes, I’m aware that Ms. Niffenegger herself describes her POV as ‘Close Third-Person, with shifting characaters’. But, that is playing semantics, in my opinion. Anytime you are telling a story by going inside the head of multiple characters, that is an omniscient narrator, since only an omniscient narrator could do that.

Consider, GRRM’s Song of Fire and Ice, which has THIRTY-TWO different point-of-view characters through five novels. Do we still call that “limited third-person”? I call bullshit.

For the record, Sanderson draws the line at changing viewpoints within a scene as being the demarcation point. If you are doing that, you are in omniscient. If it is one viewpoint per scene, it’s third-person limited.