In every story, in every novel, there is a primary character. This character is the only TRUE protagonist and everyone else is merely supporting this character on their journey.
That protagonist is the narrator.
The conceit of a story, whether it be short or long, is that somewhere there is someone telling that tale. That someone could be talking from an omniscient perspective, knowing the internal motivations and thoughts of every person in the story.
That someone could be an unreliable narrator, purposefully giving bad information to the user for dramatic purposes. Regardless, the perspective of the narrator and now that narrator judges the characters in the story is just as vital as any action or perspective of any character in the story.
Look at it this way: even though you can write a story from an omniscient point of view, it would be idiotic to write a truly omniscient story. The amount of detail that would have to go into every sentence would be insane. It would be like drawing a map of the United States with the scale of “One Mile = One Mile.”
So even an omniscient narrator decides on where to focus, describes the specifics worth paying attention to, and points the reader in the direction of their vision.
That, my friends, is control.
An omniscient narrator tells the viewer what to see. So even from the most neutral standpoint, the great Deist watchmaker perspective where the great omniscient one tries to leave as little presence of themselves in the narrative, there is still the presence of that narrator in the story.
You cannot observe something without changing it, even if only in the smallest of ways; and you cannot write something without leaving a little bit of you inside it.
What Kind Of Narrator Do You Want To Be?
This begs the question: why hasn’t that much been done with this narrator in fiction?
Why can’t the omniscient narrator of the story evolve like the characters do? Why can’t the narrator, however all knowing, change its mind about a character as the story unpeels. What if the only character in the story who is taking the “hero’s journey” is the narrator?
When considering video games as an art form, I have wondered about the future of the novel. It seems a little old-fashioned, the way a narrative unspools in a too-linear fashion. The form relies on writing formats that are at least hundreds of years old. Humanity has evolved over time. Can storytelling?
I also wonder if the omniscient narrator is a relic of religion, using the methods of the Old and New Testament to tell the tale from a singular, flawless point of view. Some have already played with the concept of the unreliable narrator. What about the imperfect one? The narrator who misinterprets what is going on while still providing an omniscient view? The narrator who doesn’t understand what is going on?
The sad thing at the end is I have nothing to propose. I leave it to you better writers to play with the concept. This is merely me vocalizing my realization: that no matter how small the cast of characters that I’ve invited to the narrative is, I have been neglecting their “plus one:” me.