I’ve recently been reading a biography of the American novelist and short story writer, Flannery O’Connor, in which it is mentioned that one of those correspondents who would read and critique her works in progress, advised against vague phrasing like “kind of” in the ON, or Omniscient Narration. An Omniscient Narrator is generally a third-person narrative voice which tells the story from a detached, objective POV (point of view). For instance: “Edward walked down the street. Simultaneously, Emily was brushing her hair.” Omniscience, defined as the quality of “knowing everything”* (and not merely thinking you do, a la teenagers and TV chefs), is therefore a prerequisite for the kind of (clearly, this narrator ain’t omniscient!) narrator who can sensibly deliver the previous hypothetical sentence. In other words, only a narrator which knows everything can say for certain that, exactly as Edward was walking down the street, Emily was brushing her hair.
“Midway through their lovemaking, as Edward realised he had left the stove on, Emily simultaneously realised she was a lesbian.“
With this in mind, the idea that such a narrator shouldn’t use phrases like “kind of” is understandable. If someone knows everything there is to know, they don’t need to qualify their observations. To them, something is not “kind of” anything. A sunset is not kind of spectacular. It simply is spectacular.
This connects to a thought I had about Omniscient Narration today while working on a story: that if such a narration shouldn’t qualify its own observations with phrases like “kind of”, maybe it also shouldn’t use contractions, because these indicate informal and therefore human, not omniscient, speech. Like the contraction shouldn’t.
Okay, MS Paint doodle, I get it. You don’t need to be a dick about it, yeesh…
For me, at least, a totally formalised Omniscient Narration, free from both qualifiers and contractions, removes a lot of uncertainty about which voice I’m writing in and how I should handle it, when I’m not writing from the first-person perspective of a character in the story.
What do you think? How do you turn on your ON, if you turn it on at all when writing? Tell me below.