What’s Your Point of View?

by Lisa Sledge

I finished reading The Tale of Despereaux two days ago. I’d never read it before. Shocking, really, since it’s a Newbery winner, a movie, and written by Kate DiCamillo.

I love Because of Winn Dixie.

In Despereaux, Kate used a strong omniscient voice. I’ve experimented with this for my own WIP. It’s really hard. So I wondered, as I read, what makes an author choose one point of view over another?

There’s a huge trend in YA and children’s books for stories in the first person because it brings the reader closest to the protagonist. Third person is a standard POV in novels.  It puts another degree of distance between the reader and the characters, yet still keeps them close. But what about omniscient?

I watch Brandon Sanderson‘s writing classes on youtube. He said that using an omniscient POV puts the greatest degree of distance between the reader and your characters, that it’s been out of favor for at least 20 years, and basically stamped the words “DO NOT ATTEMPT ” across it. Everything else I’ve heard or read seems to be in agreement.

Why did Kate DiCamillo use the omniscient POV for her story? And don’t tell me it’s because she’s awesome and therefore she can do whatever the heck she wants. That’s true, but she’s also a gifted and inspiring artist. She wouldn’t have done it without a valid reason.

This is my theory. I think the POV can help define your novel’s voice and become part of the entertainment. And I also believe that sometimes you need distance in your story. The Tale of Despereaux is a book for young children, yet terrible things happen. There are death sentences, rats who strip little mouse bones clean, tortured prisoners, child slavery, abuse, a dead queen, and a kidnapping. The distance of the omniscient voice allowed her to present difficult material to a  sensitive audience.

And you know what? I liked it.

I also think it takes serious talent to make omniscient POV work. Which is why Kate’s book won a Newbery and mine is being rewritten.

What is your favorite POV as a writer? Is it different from what you enjoy reading?



Filed under Point of View, Revision, Voice, writing process

2 responses to “What’s Your Point of View?

  1. I really like writing (and reading) first person, but I have one book that needs to be rewritten into third person for it to work, and I’m kind of excited about doing it. I’d love to try writing something in second person, or try making the narrator an opinionated one with commentary on what’s happening while not an actual character in the story–would that be a form of omniscience?

  2. LisaSledge

    Yes, a running commentary addressing the reader would make it omniscient. What’s really fun is uncovering the different types of omniscient voices that can be used. For example, your invisible narrator can do commentary all throughout a book or only at regular intervals. He/she can also be granted access to the thoughts and motives of all the characters or limited to one. And really old style omniscient uses the phrase “dear reader” all the time. It’s hard to be consistent through an entire novel and the distance makes it hard to keep a reader emotionally involved, which is why I’m fascinated (and a little jealous) when someone pulls it off well. 🙂


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