In stories, there’s something called the third-person point of view. It’s like watching a movie with a camera that moves around to show different characters and parts of the story. The narrator in this type of story can either know everything about everyone, including their thoughts and feelings (like a mind reader), or it can focus on just one character, or only know what certain characters are saying and doing.
Imagine you’re reading a book or listening to a story, and instead of being inside one character’s head, you get to see and know what’s happening to different people. The narrator can be like a storyteller who knows everything or someone who only knows bits and pieces. It’s like having a special view that allows you to explore the story from different angles. So, in third-person point of view, the narrator can either spill all the secrets or keep some things hidden, giving readers a unique way to experience the tale.
What is The Third-Person Point of View?
The third-person point of view is when the storyteller is not part of the story and doesn’t talk directly to the reader. Instead, they use names and words like “he” or “she” to describe what the characters are doing.
For example, in a story about Ella: “Ella cursed herself quietly. If she had planned better, things could be different now. But once again, she didn’t trust her instincts. ‘When will I learn?’ she mumbled to herself.”
When using the third-person point of view, a writer can focus closely on one character, switch between characters, or give an overall perspective. An omniscient narrator knows everyone’s thoughts, third-person limited focuses on one character, and third-person objective just tells the events without showing thoughts. The third-person perspective can change how closely the story follows characters and the writer can adjust it. It’s commonly used in fiction but also works for non-fiction.
What is The Third-Person Writing Style?
When authors use the third-person point of view in writing, they tell a story about the characters by mentioning their names or using pronouns like “he,” “she,” and “they.” This perspective is one of three common writing styles, with the others being first person and second person.
In the third-person approach, the author remains outside the story, acting as an observer who recounts events involving the characters. This technique allows for a broader narrative scope and offers insights into multiple characters’ thoughts and experiences. In contrast, first person involves the narrator speaking from their own perspective, using pronouns like “I” and “we,” while second person directly addresses the reader with “you.” Each perspective provides a distinct way to convey stories, influencing the reader’s connection with the narrative.
Different Types of Third Person Point of View
When it comes to writing a story, there are three main ways to approach the third-person point of view. Let’s discuss each of them and discover how they shape the narrative.
1. Third-Person Omniscient Point of View
In storytelling, the third-person omniscient point of view means the narrator knows everything about the story and its characters. This narrator has the ability to enter anyone’s mind, move freely through time, and share their own opinions and observations, along with those of the characters.
A classic example of this narrative style is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In this novel, the third-person omniscient perspective provides readers with complete insight into the main character, Elizabeth, and the people in her circle. This storytelling approach enriches the narrative by offering a comprehensive understanding of the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and the unfolding events, creating a more immersive reading experience.
2. Third-Person Limited Omniscient Point of View
In storytelling, the third-person limited omniscient point of view, often referred to as “close third,” occurs when an author closely follows one character while using the third-person perspective. Throughout the novel, the narrator can maintain this focus on a single character or switch between different characters in various chapters or sections. This approach empowers the author to control the reader’s perspective, selectively revealing information to build interest and enhance suspense.
By limiting the viewpoint, the author strategically manages the flow of information, creating a dynamic narrative that captivates readers and keeps them eagerly anticipating the unfolding story.
3. Third-Person Objective Point of View
In the third-person objective point of view, the narrator stays neutral, not knowing the thoughts or feelings of the characters. The narrative is presented in an observational tone, creating a voyeuristic experience for the reader. Ernest Hemingway utilizes this approach in “Hills Like White Elephants,” where an unidentified narrator shares the dialogue between a couple waiting for a train in Spain.
This storytelling technique makes readers feel like eavesdroppers, observing the scene without insight into the characters’ inner thoughts and emotions. The choice of this point of view allows for a detached and impartial narration, letting the readers draw their own conclusions from the characters’ words and actions.
Benefits of Third Person Point of View in Writing
Writing in the third person is a popular and effective narrative technique. This approach provides unique advantages that contribute to robust character development, narrative flexibility, and the creation of an authoritative and trustworthy narrator. Here are three compelling reasons why you should consider adopting the third person point of view in your storytelling.
1. Rich Character Development:
Third person point of view offers a broader narrative scope compared to first and second-person perspectives. This expansive viewpoint allows the spotlight to shine on multiple characters, enabling a 360-degree view of the plot. Each character contributes unique information, creating a tapestry of perspectives that weaves a rich and complex narrative.
By delving into the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of various characters, the writer can craft a more vivid and multi-dimensional portrayal of the story’s protagonists. This robust character development not only enhances the overall narrative but also provides readers with a deeper understanding of the character’s motivations and actions.
2. Narrative Flexibility:
The third person point of view provides unparalleled narrative flexibility. Writers can traverse different locations, switch between characters’ stories, and present a comprehensive view of the fictional world. This flexibility extends from complete omniscience to a limited or close third-person perspective. In the latter style, writers can immerse readers in a character’s inner thoughts and emotions, providing an intimate experience of the unfolding scenes.
The ability to seamlessly switch perspectives adds dynamic layers to the narrative, keeping readers engaged and invested in the story. Whether adopting a panoramic view or zooming in on specific characters, the third person offers a versatile canvas for storytellers to paint their literary masterpieces.
3. Authoritative and Trustworthy Narration:
Writing in the third person situates the narrator above the unfolding action, offering a bird’s-eye-view of the story. This elevated perspective, coupled with the narrator’s knowledge of at least one character’s thoughts, imparts an authoritative and trustworthy voice to the narrative. Whether employing an omniscient viewpoint or a limited third-person perspective, the narrator becomes a reliable guide for readers.
The detachment of the narrator from the characters’ struggles and triumphs adds a layer of objectivity, instilling confidence in the storytelling. The authoritative voice of the third-person narrator enhances the overall credibility of the narrative, as the narrator remains unburdened by personal stakes in the unfolding events.
How to Write in Third Person Point of View: A Beginner’s Guide
Writing a story in the third person may seem simple, but it’s more than just reporting events. These tips will guide you to make the most out of your third-person narrative:
1. Decide on the Third-Person Approach that Suits Your Story.
When you begin writing, think about which third-person viewpoint – omniscient, limited, or objective – will most effectively narrate your protagonist’s journey. Each perspective has its perks, and the choice depends on your story’s genre.
Consider how author Dan Brown employs a close third-person narrative to bring richness to his villains, humanizing them by unveiling their innermost thoughts. This technique adds depth to characters and can be beneficial, especially in genres where understanding characters on a personal level is crucial. So, as you embark on your storytelling journey, carefully select the third-person perspective that aligns with the essence of your narrative.
2. Focus on High Stakes When Choosing Your Characters
Pick your main character wisely for each chapter or scene by following individuals facing significant challenges. Opt for the character with the most at risk or the most to discover. The person encountering the highest stakes in a specific scene should be your primary focus, as their thoughts and reactions bring the most tension to the narrative.
Alternatively, selecting the character with the most to learn can be an equally effective choice. By centring your narrative around characters with heightened stakes, you ensure that the story remains engaging and the readers stay invested in the outcome of the plot.
3. Disclose Only the Information Your Character is Aware Of
When crafting your story, disclose only the information your character is aware of. The point of view is crucial in developing characters as it allows you to depict the world through their eyes, revealing thoughts and emotions to the readers. However, it’s important to recognize the limitations of your characters.
Regularly review your writing to identify any errors in providing characters with information or opinions they wouldn’t realistically possess. This practice ensures consistency and enhances the authenticity of your characters’ experiences. By staying mindful of your characters’ perspectives, you create a more immersive and believable narrative for your readers.
4. Maintain a Uniform Narrative Perspective
Ensure consistency in your storytelling. While incorporating various subplots from different viewpoints is acceptable, maintain a steady approach. If you’re narrating from your protagonist’s standpoint, avoid abrupt shifts to another character’s perspective within a scene. Such changes can disrupt the flow and create confusion for your readers.
Stick to a consistent narrative perspective to provide a smooth and enjoyable reading experience. This coherence helps readers stay engaged with the story without being distracted by sudden shifts in point of view. Keep the storytelling style steady to enhance the overall coherence of your novel and make it more accessible to your audience.
Third vs. First and Second Person Point of View
The third-person point of view stands apart from other narrative styles because of its specific use of pronouns. Unlike the first and second person, where “I” and “you” take centre stage, the third person employs “he” or “she.” Let’s look into a simple breakdown of their differences:
First-Person Point of View:
In this perspective, the narrator is a character within the story, often the main character. They use “I” to recount events from their own viewpoint, expressing personal opinions, emotions, and knowledge.
While this perspective can be limited and biased, exceptions exist. Sometimes, the narrative may switch between multiple characters. An example of this is found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” where Nick Carraway narrates while the story revolves around Jay Gatsby and Daisy.
Second-Person Point of View:
A unique and less common style, the second person involves a detached narrator addressing a character, typically the protagonist, using “you.” This approach immerses readers, making them feel as though they are experiencing the events firsthand through the protagonist’s perspective.
The narrator may possess either omniscient or limited knowledge, resulting in an intriguing, sometimes ambiguous, portrayal of the protagonist.