The Omniscient Translucent Discussion

So Bob and I are having a PoV standoff in e-mail. (Yes, we are boring.) The problem arose when we were doing the PoV post for HWSWA. He said something in his intro that I missed, and then he referred to it again at the end, where I took it as a joke. It wasn’t a joke. He seriously thinks something called “third person omniscient translucent” exists.

It went downhill from there.

Did you just make up omniscient translucent?  Because that’s not a help.
If you’re in Will’s head only in third person, that’s third limited.

I explained it. I’ve heard others use the term. But I”ll make it clearer on editing.

I googled for it.  It doesn’t exist.
I missed it the first time and thought you were just being funny at the end.  ARGH.
You get to say whatever you want, of course.  But I need to go back in there and object because it doesn’t make sense.  
You said, “So I wrote it in omniscient translucent through one person. What that means is that I, as the author, held the camera and followed Kane around. I could simply describe things; I could also add in his reactions to it (translucent, seeing through his view).”  
That’s just third limited.  There’s nothing translucent about it.  (Translucent? WTF?)
Then you said, “the hard part wasn’t POV, it was trying to know what the off-stage characters were doing while Kane was progressing forward in the story.”  
If it’s omniscient, you can talk about what the other characters are doing.  If you can’t, it’s limited.
It’s just very confusing.  There is a “ third person objective.”:
• Third-person objective. . . “has a neutral narrator that is not privy to characters’ thoughts or feelings. The narrator presents the story with an observational tone. Ernest Hemingway employs this narrative voice in his short story “Hills Like White Elephants.” An unknown narrator relays the dialogue between a couple as they wait for a train in Spain. This point of view puts the reader in the position of a voyeur, eavesdropping on a scene or story.”
Hell, I don’t want to screw up your side of this, but translucent PoV does not exist.

It’s not third limited
It’s omniscient.
I add the translucent to explain where I’m putting the omniscient POV camera– behind the character most of the time.

“Translucent” doesn’t mean “behind,” it means “foggy” or “semi-transparent.” Maybe we should have this argument in Slack?  (I’m on another computer conference right now, but I can Slack later.).

Okay, my conference is over.
Obviously, you get to say whatever you want.
But I feel compelled to argue with you about it because third person translucent does not exist and it’s going to confuse the hell out of people.  I think the two of us arguing about it will make it a lot clearer—that you made it up and can define it, that I’d argue it doesn’t make sense, etc.  Neither of us is right or wrong, but it needs clarified.
Or not.  If we don’t go back in and argue about it, I’m going to add a paragraph with my take on this, which you of course can follow up on.  But I don’t think it can just sit there in the chat without some discussion.  I honestly thought you were being funny when you talked about it at the end.

I don’t want to argue about it. Best if you write what you need and I’ll take a look and add a comment to clarify. I think POV can be on a spectrum which is perhaps where we differ.

That works.

Okay, I went to Amazon and read the first scenes of New York Minute and Lawyers, Guns, and Money.
You’re writing in third limited.
I mention this, not to change your mind, but so you know that I’m going to point that out.  Head’s up.
Those first scenes are good, by the way. Start with the action . . .

So it seems. But there are times I break the rules, so I’ll explain that. You know me– my voice tends to float. Remember the beginning of Wild Ride? Where he gets out of the taxi and he floats back in time?

Bob, if Ethan got out of the taxi and remembered the past, he’s still in third limited.  Even if you shifted to a scene in the past, he’s still in third limited. Normally, I wouldn’t care what you called it, but we’re teaching here.

. . . And that was the last of the e-mails because we both gave up and moved on to other things.

So here’s my problem: Bob gets to say whatever he wants. He can call his method Third Person Fred if he wants. BUT I think it’s confusing as hell, especially on a topic like Point of View which is already confusing as hell. And from the chapters I read, he’s writing third limited, nothing fancy about it.

He disagrees.

I, of course, am right.

Feel free to wade into the comments, agreeing with me.

12 thoughts on “The Omniscient Translucent Discussion

  1. I tried to wrap my mind around “omniscient translucent,” I really did. But I can’t. It’s possible that Bob is just using translucent in a way that is different from most uses of the word. Sorry, Bob, but I have to side with Jenny on this one.


  2. I thought he was using translucent to refer to the character – as in he could see through Kane because he was translucent. So, he was looking at things from Kane’s point of view, and seeing that Kane could see. Which to me in third person limited.


  3. I agree with you, just on general principles not because I understand POV. And anyway, in a tie, the person who crochets wins (I’m sure that’s recorded as a rule somewhere)


  4. I could have sworn I posted yesterday, but I don’t see my comment. I was just thinking that Bob was using translucent to be like bathroom glass – you can sorta see through it. So his camera is behind the protagonist, seeing what he sees, even when the protagonist’s body is blocking the shot. But I also agree with Jenny that this is just 3rd person limited.


    1. It isn’t if I, as the author, add in a comment the character would not think or know. I use it to describe the way I write. Whether it agrees with the “rules” is something that never worked for me.


      1. Yes, but it doesn’t make sense. If you want to make up a new rule, go for it. Or a new PoV. But standing behind the PoV character and looking through him (translucent or otherwise) is third limited. Calling it something else is just confusing and doesn’t accomplish anything. If it’s more distant because you’re not in his head directly, then call it distant third limited. Translucent is confusing and since you’re only in one head is not omniscient at all.

        You’re confusing people. That’s bad.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s