Hampton Roads Writers
Today we will practice NO CHARACTER POINT OF VIEW, also known as the OBJECTIVE OMNISCIENT POINT OF VIEW, and as the DRAMATIC POINT OF VIEW.
By staying outside the minds of all characters, a narrator drops the role of confidant and relies entirely on eyewitness and chorus knowledge alone. Stories of this sort that emphasize the eyewitness role tend toward scripts that include virtually nothing a bystander would not see and hear.
Saturday afternoon the mother drove to the bakery in the shopping center. After looking through a loose-leaf binder with photographs of cakes taped onto the pages, she ordered chocolate, the child’s favorite. The cake she chose was decorated with a spaceship and a launching pad under a sprinkling of white stars. The SCOTTY would be iced on in green as if it were the name of the spaceship.
The baker listened thoughtfully when the mother told him Scotty would be eight years old. He was an older man, this baker, and he wore a curious apron, a heavy thing with loops that went under his arms and around his back and then crossed in front again where they were tied in a very thick knot. He kept wiping his hands on the front of the apron as he listened to the woman, his wet eyes examining her lips as she studied the samples and talked...
—from The Bath by Raymond Carver
This viewpoint choice is especially useful for creating an ironic tone or disturbing atmosphere where the
space between what is narrated and what the readers are supposed to infer gives the story an eerie tone. On the other hand, an objective point of view makes it difficult for the writer to communicate how the reader is being asked to feel about the subject. If your reader misses an intended irony, the results could be disastrous. Also, because readers aren't allowed even a glimpse into the characters' minds, subtleties in the story may be difficult to render well.
The objective point of view has the most speed and the most action; also, it forces the reader to make his own intrepretations. On the other hand, it must rely heavily on external action and dialogue, and it offers no opportunities for interpretations by the author.
Create an objectively omniscient scene such as the one in the above example. Make sure there are at least two characters in your scene. When you are done, re-write the scene in a less objective way, going into the head of one of the characters. Study the two scenes and note the pros and cons of each POV choice.
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