Viewpoint query

Marcia McGinley McGinley at
Mon Aug 13 07:59:39 EDT 2001

Hi Sally,

I almost think I understand what you mean but just in case I'm wrong what is
the omniscient viewpoint and how is it different to what they do in the US?


----- Original Message -----
From: Sally Odgers <sodgers at>
To: <dwj at>
Sent: Friday, August 10, 2001 9:34 AM
Subject: Re: Pace

> > How many of us had "show, don't tell" drilled into us in writing
> > classes? I've long since taken it as Received Word of God the Editor.
> Quite a lot taught in writing class is (usually) wrong. I believe it comes
> from Maybes being taught as Absolutes. Most people like Absolutes. Most
> people don't like Sometimes - or else why would there be so much fuss
> the "ough" combination in the English language?
> So - kids are taught to use adjectives to relieve the bald narrative style
> small children use.
> Result - a horrid floral florridness that stifles their prose in
> overflow. (Or sometimes a convoluted convulsion such as the sentence I
> achieved back there.)
> Teachers say - "show, don't tell", leading to huge long passages that
> the reader with dialongue and business. Sometimes, my friends, something
> needs to be Told. Or, Told and Shown as well.
> Let's say "Jenna was hasty-tempered."  Then let's show Jenna being hasty
> tempered. Telling lets the reader know, Showing makes the reader believe.
> get the same effect without Telling, one would have to Show two or three
> times, to make certain the first one wasn't just an aberration!
> Then there's Said. The ghastliness of Said is drummed into writers so they
> barely dare to venture a whisperd Ssss. This leads to the horrors of
> Gritted, Hissed, Whipered, Yelled, Sighed and, most ghastly, Grinned, all
> within a normal conversation.
> Writers should properly be told - Use Said Usually. Vary it *Now and
> or Don't Use Said All the Time.
> Alas, some people hear this as Don't Use Said Any of the Time.
> My particular bugbear is the US editorial Thing (held by about half the
> US-based eds I've worked with) about tight viewpoint. In Britain and
> Australia, viewpoint might vary considerably, with omniscient being quite
> usual and accepted. Look at the work of award-winning authors if you don't
> believe me.  Such award-winners may acknowledge that the US style is
> *different* in this matter. However, US editors quite often decide that
> ferent* is a synonym for *wrong*. Recently I was told, in straight-faced
> prose, that unless I corrected my *bad writing* I would "never realise my
> dream of publication". I don't usually argue with editors, but in this
> I'm afraid I told the person concerned I had "realised my dream of
> publication" first in 1977 (and 200 + times since) and asked if the 40+
> editors who say my writing is "good" are all wrong?
> Now, the editor was a case in point. She wanted absolutes and insisted on
> the truth of; Thou Shalt Never Be Published If Thou Darest Use Omniscient
> Viewpoint.
> However, there is no absolute, and I and many others are living proof of
> that. She might have said, truthfully; Thou Shalt Never Be Published *By
> If Thou Darest Use Omniscient Viewpoint. Because she didn't use the
> qualifier, her truth became a lie.
> Would the same point crop up in reverse in a British or Australian market?
> Somehow, I doubt it. Some Australian writers use tight viewpoint, and some
> Brits do too. And I know some US writers use multi-viewpoint sometimes,
> though that isn't the same as Omnscient. Maybe we all, especially teachers
> and editors, need to step back and realise Different isn't always Wrong
> Sometimes is a legitimate suggestion. It took me twenty years to get rid
> weird writing habits my teacher actually *tried* to instil in me.
> After all, what if someone had tried to teach DWJ how to write Properly?
> Perish the thought.
> Sallyo.
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