What is third person omniscient point of view? Third person omniscient point of view is the perfect perspective for writers who want to play god. We’re going to define this specific type of point of view by looking at examples from video essays and literature. By the end, you’ll know why third person omniscient POV is considered by many to be the most empowering literary perspective.
3rd Person Omniscient Point of View
Background on third person POV
The third person omniscient point of view is just one type of point of view – there are tons more. So, what is point of view? Well, quite literally, point of view is the perspective through which a story is told.
First person point of view is when the narrator is directly telling the story, i.e., “I went to the store today.” Second person point of view is when the reader is put into the shoes of the narrator, i.e., “You went to the store today.” Third person point of view is when the narrator is an outside observer, i.e., “They went to the store today.”
For more on third person point of view, check out this lecture from author/editor Dianne Callahan.
Callahan analyzes third person point of view from bottom to top, from limited and omniscient perspectives, to advantages and disadvantages. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s first break down the third person omniscient definition.
THIRD PERSON OMNISCIENT POINT OF VIEW DEFINITION
What is third person omniscient point of view?
Third person omniscient point of view is a third-person literary perspective that offers omniscient insight into one or more character’s minds. Third person omniscient point of view is used to shine an all-seeing eye on a story’s character(s) and world.
Why Write in Third Person Omniscient
Third person limited vs. omniscient
Third person point of view is separated into two major types: limited and omniscient. So, what’s the difference between third person limited point of view and third person omniscient point of view?
Well, in limited point of view, the narrator’s knowledge is limited. Conversely, in omniscient point of view, the narrator’s knowledge is limitless.
For readers, in a "limited" POV, you'd only have full access to a one or more character's heart and mind (but not every character).
With an "omniscient" POV, you'd have full access to any and all characters.
Omniscience simply translates from the Latin omni, meaning “all,” and sciens, meaning “knowing,” as “all-knowing.”
WHAT IS THIRD PERSON OMNISCIENT POINT OF VIEW?
Why write in third person omniscient?
Now that we know what third person omniscient point of view is, let’s examine how it’s used. This next video from Reedsy does a great job of not only explaining how to use third person omniscient POV, but when to use it as well.
Here’s a simple way to think of yourself as a third person omniscient narrator: you know everything. The librarian’s birthday? You know it. The temperature outside? You know it. The secret to the universe? You know it – well the secret to that fictional world’s universe at least.
Third person omniscient point of view gives writers the ability to express exact details about a diegesis at any point in time.
Here’s an example from Pride and Prejudice:
Mrs. Bennet was in fact too much overpowered to say a great deal while Sir William remained; but no sooner had he left them than her feelings found a rapid vent. In the first place, she persisted in disbelieving the whole of the matter; secondly, she was very sure that Mr. Collins had been taken in; thirdly, she trusted that they would never be happy together; and fourthly, that the match might be broken off. Two inferences, however, were plainly deduced from the whole: one, that Elizabeth was the real cause of the mischief; and the other that she herself had been barbarously misused by them all; and on these two points she principally dwelt during the rest of the day. Nothing could console and nothing could appease her. Nor did that day wear out her resentment. A week elapsed before she could see Elizabeth without scolding her, a month passed away before she could speak to Sir William or Lady Lucas without being rude, and many months were gone before she could at all forgive their daughter.
You can tell by reading this short excerpt that the narrator has an omniscient view of characters and plot. Not every omniscient narrator regales the story at as brisk a pace of that of the narrator in Pride in Prejudice. In fact, some ruminate on people and places longer than other perspectives.
There’s no doubt about it: third person omniscient point of view is a versatile and empowering literary perspective.
Point of view explained
Third person omniscient point of view gives writers ultimate control of a story’s narrative. But as we mentioned, it is just one of many types of point of view. For an overview of all your options in regards to POV, read on!