Whether this is a well-known fact or not, I don’t know. But if you didn’t know this already, then here it is: writing from the perspective of third-person omniscient is the easiest way to write. It is the most versatile, the most flexible and the most widely used.
This is the perspective of the disembodied, all-knowing narrator. The third-person omniscient, or the 3PO, can jump from character to character. The 3PO is neither a he, nor a she, and yet is both. Most importantly, the 3PO does not need to justify how he/she/it knows what a character is thinking.
Why, then, do many authors writing from the 3PO point of view fail to take advantage of this inherent leniency by justifying their characters’ thoughts?
What do I mean by that? Well, take for example the following passage written by a well-known, well-loved author of romantic suspense (whom I won’t disrespect by naming):
He smiled. It was the kind of smile that made her want to take a couple of steps back, turn and run for her life. But that would be the worst thing she could do, she told herself. She knew enough about animal behaviour to know that predators only got more excited by fleeing prey.
Did you see it? The justification?
At the least, that little she told herself is unnecessary. We already know we’re reading this character’s thoughts. We already know she’s thinking: that would be the worst thing I could do! That’s the beauty of the 3PO point-of-view. You don’t have to remind us that your thoughts are really your characters’ thoughts.
Unfortunately, the she told herself is also distracting. One minute the reader is snuggled up comfortably in the character’s head, and the next they’re ripped away by that small, seemingly innocuous justification.
Worse still, it suggests a lack of confidence by the writer. It may be unintentional, but it’s there: the need to justify omniscient words by adding to it the context of a character’s relative position.
The she told herself is entirely redundant. The paragraph would exist nicely without it:
He smiled. It was the kind of smile that made her want to take a couple of steps back, turn and run for her life. But that would be the worst thing she could do. She knew enough about animal behaviour to know that predators only got more excited by fleeing prey.
If you’re writing from the third-person omniscient viewpoint – and it’s likely that you are, or will at some point in your career – have confidence that your omniscient knowledge, your omniscient words and your omniscient thoughts can stand on their own.
You don’t need to remind readers that what you’re thinking is really what the character is thinking. We already know it. And if we’ve read more than ten pages into your book (the general make-or-break point for any novel), then chances are we trust your insider information and your judgement. We know you’ll translate your characters’ thoughts and feelings faithfully, and that you’ll bring us through to the story’s end.
We trust you to speak for your characters. You just need to trust yourself.