Ours To Know: Omniscient Voice and the Divine Arrogance of It

Today, I welcome Gonzo author, A.B Funkhauser to the blog to discuss her favourite point of view style, the omniscient voice. For those who aren’t familiar with ‘Gonzo’, I like to think of it as Noir humour.

If you’re a writer, you’ll know all about the point of view options we use to tell our story. The omniscient point of view was the mainstay of literature for centuries up until more recent times when it fell to the victim of the dreaded ‘writing rules’.

Recently, writers have been challenging this ‘rule’, given that some of the best literature in history was written with an omniscient voice. Some authors, like A.B have unapologetically bucked the trend from day one.

A.B Funkhauser is the author of Heuer Lost and Found, Scooter Nation, and her latest, brand new release Shell Game comes out today from Solstice Publishing. You’ll find an excerpt immediately following this article to whet your appetite.

Take it away, A.B!


seven years

If you are like me, then you like to be “in” on things before the masses catch up. Don’t apologize. Most of us are this way. Whether it’s a sale or a hot real estate tip, we like to be there first. We like to know before the others do.

And that is what omniscient voice is all about.

Omniscient, the Oxford Dictionary tells us, originates from the “early 17th century medieval Latin omniscient–‘all-knowing’, based on scire* ‘to know’.”[1] In literature, it means eye in the sky, unseen thing, or, my favorite, the essential ‘tell’.

Shakespeare made regular use of ‘asides’ through foils that happily co-conspired with the audience. Netflix and co-producers Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey do the same thing with HOUSE OF CARDS. In both cases, characters speak directly to us imparting sensitive information from behind the backs of others. The omniscient narrator does this too, and we feel privileged for it, not just because it gives us a first class ticket to the front row, but also foreknowledge that plays on another of human nature’s guilty pleasures: the Schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude is one of those nifty German words that sums up in a few vowels and consonants, an idea that would take far more than 140 characters in the English language to convey. To wit: it is a “pleasure derived by someone from another’s misfortune.”[2] Weird, yes, but who doesn’t love to see the underdog triumph at the expense of a conniving rube before it happens? I certainly do.

Let’s face it: sometimes a writer needs to say it to get on with it.

The unseen thing or eye in the sky can move seamlessly from pleasant distraction (the dulcet tones of the late Joanne Woodward as she narrates us gently through the tony parlors of America’s 1 per cent in the film THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993) ) to the Dickensian essential tell: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, etc., etc., etc…”

Whether used for comedic purposes or to set a scene where suspense or angst clearly follows, the omniscient voice is a handy companion to both writer and reader because it is a fellow traveler that does the driving. Passengers get to the appropriate destination every time:

“…And there was The Soldier, a southerner, an ex-Green Beret who’d got rich in Vietnam and brought his money north. He’d have too much to drink like he always did and start drawing parallels between north and south and rich and poor and the indigenous and the transplanted.

And that’s when someone would take offence.”[3]

There’s no hidden trick to writing omniscient, though there are probably a few useful “how to’s” out there that will gladly hint at it. For me, omniscient is a happy accident born out of too much black and white television and an above average amount of Thomas Hardy growing up.

Reader or writer, lover or hater, omniscient is a device. Like others, it is subject to fashion in the same way poor semi-colon is, for example. Omniscient voice, I’m told, is no longer de rigueur. It is ‘old,’ ‘lazy,’ ‘confusing,’ and just not done in the 21st Century.

But draw closer. I’ll let you in on a secret: Read a lot, watch the tube, and then listen for that strange music that gives you an added advantage. You know that sound. It’s right there in the room with you right next to the elephant.

Adult, unapologetic and all for omniscient,

I am

A.B. Funkhauser

*English legal blah, blah, blah concerning writs and facias that have nothing to do with heel pain. (If you get the joke, then congrats are in order—you’re “in on it.”

[1] Google, of course.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Heuer Effect, coming Fall 2018.


Introducing A.B Funkhauser’s new release: Shell Game

SHELL GAME COVER 1

From the award-winning author of HEUER LOST AND FOUND and SCOOTER NATION and brought to you by Solstice Publishing…

SHELL GAME

Carlos the Wonder Cat lives free, traveling from house to house in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Known by everyone, his idyllic existence is threatened when a snarky letter from Animal Control threatens to punish kitty owners who fail to keep their pets indoors. The $5,000 fine / loss of kitty to THE MAN is draconian and mean, but before Team Carlos can take steps, he is kidnapped by a feline fetishist sex cult obsessed with the films of eccentric Pilsen Güdderammerüng. Stakes are high. Even if Carlos escapes their clutches, can he ever go home?

SHELL GAME is the third novel in the Unapologetic Lives Series. Funkhauser’s previous works won the 2015 Preditors and Editors Award for Best Horror, the 2016 Summer Indie Book Award for Best Humor, and the 2016 New Apple E-Book Award for Best Horror and Best Humor.

Excerpt

“You know why I’m here?” she asked, feeling shy.

He smiled broadly, making her feel self-conscious. She averted her eyes.

“Poonie, darlin.’ I have no idea why you’re here. It wasn’t the question I was expecting.”

She buried her nose in her cup, pondering ways to get out of the hole she’d just dug. After a lengthy silence, she decided to go for it, hoping that she was speaking to a broader mind.

“I was looking for Zoltan. He and I—you know—became something of an item—you know—while you were gone…um. It’s all buggered up. I mean, I buggered it up. I was pretending to be something I’m not, and I—”

Bill took the cup out of her hand and stole a sip, something quite unexpected, but ground-breaking.

“You don’t have to explain anything to me, my dear. I should probably explain a thing or two to you.”

Poonam held her breath. Did Bill Caley know about his wife and her husband?

He took a deep breath, let it out, and took a seat opposite her. Then he took her hand. “It was wrong of me to do to you what I did. But Bronagh was so bloody insistent. She’s a good woman. She was a good woman. And then she kinda lost her way.”

“Bill!” It was the only thing she could think to say.

“Let me finish. The renovation I could easily blame on her. Say it was all her idea. But the truth is, I wanted it too. I thought it would bring us closer. I never thought about what all the dust and noise would do to you, especially after you’d lost Sikander.”

She hung her head.

“I’m sorry. ‘Lost’ is such a stupid word, but I’m not good at these things. Neither of us is, which is why we dodged the funeral and you.”

“It’s okay. It’s okay. I’m managing.”

“It’s not okay, my darlin.’ It’s not. Your mummy gave me right and proper shit for not seeing what was going on in front of me. I’m so sorry.”

He was clueless. Now it was Poonie’s turn to not know what to say and say something anyway. “Bill, what are you doing in Zoltan’s trailer?”

“Ah, there’s the rub,” he said. “The rub. You know it? Shakespeare used it all the time.” He pulled his hair back into a pony tail with a multi-colored scrunchie—one of Lou’s, she guessed—but in Zoltan’s world, one couldn’t be sure. “I’m here because I’m apart.”

She reached for the shared cocoa cup. “A part? You’ve joined the collective?”

“No, no. You misunderstand. I’ve grown apart—from my wife.”

Poonie nodded. “The rub.”

“Yes! No! She’s rubbed me the wrong way—yes. But this time, something else has happened. I’ve grown apart. I’ve grown apart from my life.”

Poonie thought of Sikander’s pre-deceased wanderlust. “It seems to be epidemic around here.”

They talked for several minutes: the man, uttering the usual platitudes about it ‘never being too late;’ she, about her own kind of homespun wisdom designed to get to a point.

“The renovation has stopped?”

“Yes,” he said. “Bronie’s Irish pension had its limits, I guess.”

Poonie nodded, coming out of a thought. “I never had a foreign pension. I was born overseas, but I left when I was young.”

“I don’t have one either,” he chuckled. “And neither did Bronagh. Came out of the blue.” He cracked his large knuckles. “I gotta hand it to her for going after it. I don’t have that kind of patience.”

“Neither do I,” Poonie said, lying.

Nothing comes out of the blue, least of all, a pile of money.


Toronto born author A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us, not we it. A devotee of the gonzo style pioneered by the late Hunter S. Thompson, Funkhauser attempts to shine a light on difficult subjects by aid of humorous storytelling. “In gonzo, characters operate without filters, which means they say and do the kinds of things we cannot in an ordered society. Results are often comic, but, hopefully, instructive.”

Funkhauser’s debut novel, Heuer Lost and Found, is the winner of the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll for Best Horror 2015, and the New Apple EBook Award 2016 for Horror. Her sophomore effort, Scooter Nation, is the winner of the New Apple Ebook Award 2016 for Humor, and the winner Best Humor Summer Indie Book Awards 2016.

Contact with A.B. Funkhauser through her website, www.abfunkhauser.com, Twitter (@IAMFunkhauser)  and Amazon (click here).

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About Cryssa Bazos

Historical fiction writer and 17th century enthusiast.
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