How I Improve on Tolkien's Omniscient POV (Golden Fleece) in Lord of the Rings for Silver Skies
Though Silver Skies 1996 Version is primarily a Buddy Love (see Save the Cat) story, it has a very strong Golden Fleece subplot, which is epic and heroic like The Lord of the Rings. The story world in The Lord of the Rings is much more fantasy and made up than the story world in Silver Skies 1996 Version, which may explain why Tolkien had to resort to omniscient POV to tell his story because his world was so complex, any other point of view would have taken up too much story time to let the reader understand the story world.
I personally think that if Tolkien had used my technique of using third-person limited, only veering into omniscient when absolutely necessary, he could have told a more powerful tale. I am using a technique that helps me use the brevity of omniscient POV without losing the strong identification with the POV character that you get with third-person limited. I guess you’d call it using a form of stream of consciousness in third-person limited POV. Here’s a sample from my novel. If you’ll notice, I very subtly get out of Brianna’s head in bits and pieces, but I keep inserting Brianna’s POV to keep the reader identified with her. I don’t know what you call this technique, but it works well for my novel. I think it would have worked well in The Lord of the Rings, too, especially in scenes where he went on rants in omniscient POV describing his (to me) boring story world:
Mary dropped her off at her cabin. It was very cozy inside. Brianna unpacked, then walked around outside. Nearby was a sprawling river. She could hear it trickling over rocks in its bed. Birds chirped and flew from evergreen to evergreen. The air was fresh and brisk and the temperature perfect. Evergreens formed a ragged outline on the nearby mountain which sloped gently higher. Stones crunched in the sandy dirt as she walked. She could be perfectly happy here except that he wasn’t here. Her eyes closed, she imagined his hand in hers and both of them walking together surrounded by this. The mountains and trees laughed at her as if to say, “What are you afraid of? Why isn’t he here with you?” She wanted to scream back, “I’m not a coward! I’ll bring him here someday.” The answer she got was the river bravely following its course, cascading down waterfalls, daring her to be brave, to overcome her fear of the heights. “Those who are afraid of the falls never experience the ecstasy of flying,” the river said. Something clicked in her brain. She would never know the ecstasy of loving him if fear of the falls stopped her. How could she do this to herself? To him? Why did she let fear control her? Didn’t God say, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin?” She knelt and asked God to forgive her because her life was guided by fear and not faith. When she arose and looked at the mountain, its strength infused her. She danced and flung her arms into the air. She was a deer springing toward freedom, a mountain lion pouncing to attack. The New World Order no longer was the sky, it was the rocky ground which she stomped on. If she kept stomping she would find a way to Dor.
Here is my rewrite of the opening to The Lord of the Rings, using my technique, trying to inject Baggins’ voice to make it come from his mind:
Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced he’d shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday. Yes! A party of special significance. It was the talk of the town in Hobbiton.
Bilbo, very rich and very peculiar, and the wonder of the Shire for sixty years, ever since his remarkable disappearance and unexpected return. He’d brought back riches from his travels and was now the local legend. Everyone believed, despite the talk of the old folks, that the Hill at Bag End was filled with tunnels, stuffed with treasure. And if that was not enough to be famous, his prolonged vigour was such a marvel. Time wore on, and Mr. Baggins remained unchanged. At ninety, he looked like fifty. At ninety-nine, calling him well-preserved they did. But unchanged, would have been nearer the mark. Some shook their head, thinking this too much of a good thing. How unfair that anyone should possess (apparently) perpetual youth and unending wealth.
Here is what Tolkien wrote:
When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.
Bilbo was very rich and very peculiar, and had been the wonder of the Shire for sixty years, ever since his remarkable disappearance and unexpected return. The riches he had brought back from his travels had now become a local legend, and it was popularly believed, whatever the old folk might say, that the Hill at Bag End was full of tunnels stuffed with treasure. And if that was not enough for fame, there was also his prolonged vigour to marvel at. Time wore on, but it seems to have little effect on Mr. Baggins. At ninety he was much the same as at fifty. At ninety-nine they began to call him well-preserved; but unchanged would have been nearer the mark. There were some that shook their heads and thought this was too much of a good thing; it seemed unfair that anyone should possess (apparently) perpetual youth as well as (reputedly) inexhaustible wealth.
These changes may seem minor, but they add up over time. Tolkien uses omniscient in a manner that partly drowns out the voice of the character. Perhaps, this is because what I like best about the story is its themes and characters, and I’m not too enamored by his story world, which bores me in sections. In other words, I’m awed by Tolkien’s story and characters and am less impressed by how he writes. His characters and story are so brilliant, we are willing to forgive him for being boring in describing his story world. But, I, personally, think his novel would have been far more engrossing if he explored his story world more through the head and heart of his POV characters. The exception to this would be scenes where it’s important to know the viewpoint of several POV characters at once, like very important climax scenes, or a scene where the novel is at the point of no return. Even then, he could have focused more on one POV character per paragraph at least.
When I want to pull back and give the reader a broader panorama, I remain in third person limited but go into deep stream of consciousness with my POV character, maintaining the powerful character voice as he or she describes things from ON HIGH. I don’t consider that omniscient POV and that’s debatable. Perhaps it is a type of omniscient, but I do that after I’m firmly into the POV character’s voice for the scene. For this to work, the character needs to have a strong and unique voice, so that the reader feels like they are experiencing it as the character experiences it. This technique works brilliantly when you have thoughtful, deep POV characters as I do. I’m not sure you could use this technique with a shallow character. But the point is, the reader still feels a deep identification with the character’s feelings even when you venture into omniscient territory. It is especially important to go into character depths when you have a Golden Fleece story, which consists of:
A ROAD: spanning oceans, miles, time, or even across the street, so long as it demarcates growth and tracks the progress of your story in some way. It often includes a road apple that stops the journey in its tracks. The road in Silver Skies is time, starting with pre-tribulation earth and ending with the Final Battle between Christ and the Antichrist.
A TEAM (OR BUDDY): to guide the hero along the way. Usually, it’s those who represent the things the hero lacks: skill, experience, or attitude. In the case of a Solo Fleece, the team usually consists of various helpers along the way. My main POV character is Dor Ben Habakkuk (a marvelous name for a Golden Fleece, right?) and his buddy is Brianna (also his love interest). Another buddy is Brianna’s father Franz Wilhelm (who has a team assisting him, especially in the last third of the book).
A PRIZE: something primal that’s sought after — getting home, securing a treasure, freedom, reaching an important destination, or gaining a birthright. The prize in Silver Skies is pretty primal, it’s the freedom to love truly in a world where true love is condemned and outlawed and this freedom can only be obtained when Dor gives his life for his Jewish people (so says Christ to him in a dream). In a Golden Fleece, the hero doesn’t even have to get the prize for this to work, because that’s not what the story is about. And up until the very end, it seems he never succeeded in his goal to give his life for his people. But by the end, it doesn’t matter, because the story is about honoring true love, even if you’re the only one who does, in order to bring light to the universe. One of the most resonating moments of this genre is when your hero and (readers) realizes the treasure they’re after pales in comparison to the real treasure they’ve gained along the way: love, friendship, teamwork, or whatever your theme/B Story might be. In Silver Skies the love is the A story, but the love still resonates strongly with the Golden Fleece B story.
So let’s study in more detail how Tolkien got across his theme brilliantly, which he did, despite using omniscient POV (which, I think, was the main weakness in The Lord of the Rings). Tolkien loved his story world too much, so he used Lord of the Rings to describe it all, bordering on boredom to those who cared more about the theme and characters than his story world. If he described the story world, using third-person limited POV through a powerful stream of consciousness voice, to get across his theme (Buddy love was the B story in Lord of the Rings), he would have wowed even those readers who are not into fantasy novels, especially ones with complex story worlds.
I do have some time travel in Silver Skies, so I can also learn from Interstellar and other sources.
Is time travel possible? https://gabriellechana.blog/2019/04/11/time-travel-research-for-silver-skies-novels/
Copyright © 2020 Gail Chord Schuler. All Rights Reserved.