The Problem With Omniscience

So I recently read an article discussing the choice of the show runners for Game of Thrones on how to deal with Bran as the three eyed Raven with being omniscient. Omniscience is a powerful ability for anyone to have and can cause problems with storytelling if not treated appropriately. On Game of Thrones they chose to make the character less relatable on a human level. Trying to make him stand-offish from other characters so they don’t simply ask him how it will out turn out I guess.

Of course this is not the only limitation that they have provided for him. Even though Bran can technically see anywhere and any when, it is so much information that he does not have it all necessarily at his finger tips. With the season finale reveal we find that Sam still had to provide information to Bran for him to ultimately see it. This means that he doesn’t have instant recall even though omniscient.

This provides some structure to a power that could ultimately destroy any potential story because the character has the power to tell people exactly what will happen. It can also be used as lazy story telling if you write yourself in to a corner.

See All Tell All

So obviously the first problem with omniscience is that because you see all, you know everything that has happened and everything that will happen. So why wouldn’t you tell people what happens? Of course this is where often storytellers bring up the fact that knowing the future can change it. So the question is if you know everything, then you also know whether saying anything will make any difference. At the same time from a storytelling perspective even if they do reveal everything the only person who might be ruined is the reader because they know that they are telling the truth when other people don’t.

Deus Ex Omniscience

The other problem is that omniscience can be used as a crutch. I don’t necessarily have an example of this, but I could definitely see it being a thing. Where as soon as you have an omniscient character then suddenly the challenge can just die, but it also means that if the writer or storyteller paints themselves into a corner it is something that they can use to pull themselves out because the omniscient character can just come in and fix everything because they know everything. Which can take a tense complicated situation and just deflate it in an instance.

Working Around Omniscience

The thing that is actually more interesting is when you have people trying to work around omniscience. Where there is a character who is mostly omniscient and somehow another character finds a way to outsmart them. Omniscience as a thing to thwart becomes more interesting then it being used to uncover everything. Omniscience is such a difficult trait to give a character because if they really know everything at all times then they are kind of boring and life can get kind of boring for them. That can make it difficult to make the story interesting if you don’t have some limits to the ability to know everything.


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