Mysteries are best in the first or third omniscient voice?

In my reading group, there has developed a school of thought that claims that the best ever mysteries are in the first voice, private PI type thingy. Personally, I go with PD James, Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie,  Their Third voice omniscient has produce far more intriguing plots than any other. I also think the best Thrillers and suspense novels are in the third voice, Silence of the Lambs, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Frankenstein, and the like. This may be a matter or preference, but I am sensing there is something to it. What do you think?

Views: 275

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Be careful about the moving in and out from the bird's-eye view. It's a technique I like to use, but it's corny and can get you into trouble if you over use it. I use it only for some transitions between scenes, and I try to be very very conscious of how I'm using it.

If some other technique comes naturally too you, you might play with it - you can only learn by doing.

However, as a general rule, don't move from one point of view to another in the same scene. Pulling back the camera (going into bird's-eye view) generally isn't going into a different point of view, you're just taking on a larger picture. ("Tight" comes from camera terminology - a "tight close up." You're so close you're inside the character.)

However you can jump to other characters all you want if you change the scene - each scene is a point of view. And you can be tight or loose with it. A good person to read for this technique is Donald Westlake. He was a master of not only using multiple points of view, but of using objective cameral or getting very tight on the character as necessary. But he was always consistent within a scene.
Once you go to bird's eye view, it is no longer tight third, and may even be, in a sense, head hopping, even if we are hopping from the head of the character to the head of the bird--or the lens of the overhead camera.
Yeah. Head-hopping is when the writer is in tight third and switches from one character's head to another within the same scene. (Switching characters at scene breaks is not generally considered head-hopping.) Head-hopping confuses the reader, because it's sometimes difficult to tell who is doing the thinking. If your reader has to back up and re-read something to figure out what's going on, it pulls them out of the story and the flow is interrupted.
So I guess I am safe. I just finished reading Kathy Reichs 206 Bones, and I am just not all there. First person just does not work for me with that book. Too many swaps between present and back flashes, third and first person.
Umm, the camera view is not omniscient. Hemingway writes as if a camera and a tape recorder were in use. Neither can read minds or feel emotions.

Omniscient would involve a godlike knowledge of what is going on outside and inside (the minds) for any number of characters. I have a notion that this was more common in the Golden Age mysteries. It tends to create distance.

Limited third usually gives you the thoughts of one character only, the POV character, who is unaware of anything he/she can not witness.

First person does the same for a narrator.

Head-hopping is the disconcerting habit of some authors to give you the thoughts of both or all the characters in a scene by doing a back-and-forth between them. I don't like it myself, but now and then you catch some rather fine authors doing a bit of this.
"Umm, the camera view is not omniscient.:

Yeah, that's why I said I was simplifying. If you look it it in terms of "ghost" placement, it's more related to omniscient than tight third - even if technically it's not. Both objective and omniscient are not really inside a particular person. It's just a matter of how much the ghost reports.

Same with first person narration - sometimes it's more self-aware than others. Sometimes that narrator is virtually omniscient. (Especially in something like P.G. Wodehouse, where the narrator is a raconteur.)

I know that the academic/literary divisions are different, but I find that being aware of where you are in a scene is more practical. (Especially when you realize that sometimes the writer really does put you in the bar, hearing about the story, rather than in the story.
Just to put a stick on the bonfire, here -- first person can be omniscient when the narrator makes clear that s/he is relating the story from a later POV, i.e., "When I look back on it now..." Versus real-time first person, which a lot of the P.I. stories are told in, where the narrator appears to be going thru the story in real time and has no benefit of hindsight. What would be the technical term for that difference, I wonder?
I think the technical term is "the frame." You frame the story from a future reference point. The narrator tells the story and at the end the writer either closes the frame from the narrators point of view, or just ends the story in the past.
Thats a good one
Great explanation, Camille. Among the things I like about tight third is the ability to show the reader how two (or more) characters may have different perceptions of the same thing, possibly (not always) making the reader unsure which is correct. It's also effective at letting the reader see a specific character is about to make a big mistake, or to foreshadow action, because the reader knows what Character A is about to do can be nothing but trouble in light of what Character B just did, though A is unaware of it. Lots of possibilities.
Tight third is very similar to first person. The view of the scene rarely strolls from the senses of the character, not even to describe, and never within the same scene.
I tend to like omniscient best when it's used in some sort of hard-boiled setting.

I think that works well too, because you get to use the vernacular. As in the classic Philip Marlowe PI serie. How else could Chandler have pulled off a line like...."a dark shadow fell across my chop suey." :) (I think it's OK to quote once the copyright has expired)! And I think I got that right---more or less.

RSS

CrimeSpace Google Search

© 2020   Created by Daniel Hatadi.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service