Thursday, February 18, 2010

Who's In Third? Omnipotent Limitations.

The first "official" (meaning not a freebie, one I had to pay money for) purchase I made on our new Kindle was Stephen King's "Under the Dome." Now, I cut my writing teeth on SK in high school. He was my first "writing idol," the one I wanted to be "just like him" when my "career took off." I devoured everything he wrote back then with the voracity of Pennywise the Clown. The last SK book I read was "Cell," simply because I've been busy. I've read a lot of books since then, and we have other books of his I haven't read yet, but "Under the Dome" is the first I snagged to read.

As I sat down last night and started reading, several things immediately hit me squarely between the eyes. One, he tells "UtD" in third person omniscient point of view. Second, I'm finding it difficult to really "get into" the characters like I can with first or third person limited. Third, I see why poorly executed third-omni can lead to head-hopping and telling instead of showing (or worse, author intrusion). And fourth, while SK is a master of third-omni, he's one of few authors I've read lately who should try it, but even then (see point two) just because he can do it doesn't mean it should be done.

Now, I'm not saying I don't like the book, because so far, it's a page-turner for me. I'm loving it and reminded why I've always loved SK for a good, pulse-throbbing read. But all the while, I'm finding...something lacking. That connection I feel with characters in a limited third viewpoint, where we're inside someone's head, the ability to get to know them.

Yes, I see why "UtD" needs to be in third-omni. It would be damned hard--if not impossible--to pull it off otherwise. But I'm also seeing why in many cases, especially in romances, it should NOT be used. In a romance, you want the readers to get into the characters' heads, to feel what they feel, to be wrapped up inside the characters as much as they are the story.

In this book, I'm wrapped up in the story, yes, but...I'm just not feeling it.

And now with this knowledge in hand, I'm really interested to go back and revisit some of my favorites, like "The Shining" and "The Stand," one with a limited cast and crew, the other an epic of...epic proportions, to see if I get that same feeling NOW about his books.

What changed? Well, I've got over 20 books published or pending publication, for starters, with plenty more in my brain's queue and screaming to be written. I've read a lot of books in the romance genre which, I will admit, wasn't one of my focuses before I started writing romances.

This is why it is DESPERATELY important for a writer to READ. If you don't read, you don't learn and grow as a writer. You can't grow a vegetable garden without adding fertilizer and plant food. Reading is that fertilizer (and not just reading bullshit, either *LOL*).

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

It really did shock me last night when this realization hit me. One of those, "D'OH!" moments you have as a writer when you know you've just learned something of monumental importance for your career. I'd never really been able to vocalize the differences before, even though intellectually I KNOW the differences. I've seen LOTS of poorly executed third-omni in older romances that is nothing but head-hopping. SK doesn't head-hop in this book, it's properly executed third-omni. Something to think about.

Happy Writing!

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