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A Comprehensive Guide to Writing in Third Person Point of View

By Jill Steves

Third person point of view is a popular choice for writers for many reasons. It allows the reader to feel more removed from the story, and it can be less emotionally taxing for the writer. Third person point of view also allows for more flexibility in terms of storytelling, as the writer is not limited by their own thoughts and feelings, and the omniscient narrator will have access to more information than many of the characters. In this article we'll talk about exactly what third person POV is, and when to choose it for your books.

What is third person point of view?

Third person point of view is when the narrator of a story is not a character in the story, but an external force (often referred to as "omniscient") who is recounting the events of the story. This perspective is also sometimes called "third person omniscient" or "omniscient point of view", as the narrator knows everything about all of the characters in the story (although they might not always relay this to the reader!).

In a third-person POV book, they narrator would never use "I" or "me" pronouns, only ever he/she/they/it. They're always talking about other people and things.

Examples of books written in third person

There are many well-known examples of books written in third person point of view:

  • The Harry Potter series
  • The Expanse series
  • A Song of Ice and Fire series

The different types of third person point of view

There are three different types of third person point of view: limited, objective, and omniscient.

Limited third person point of view is when the narrator is limited to only knowing the thoughts and feelings of one character in the story. (This is similar to what's often used in first-person stories, as it allows the reader to feel more connected to the protagonist.)

Objective third person point of view is when the narrator is external to the story and does not reveal any inner thoughts or feelings of the characters. This type of point of view is often used in thrillers or suspenseful stories, as it creates a sense of unease and tension.

Omniscient third person point of view is when the narrator knows everything about all of the characters in the story. This type of point of view allows for a more objective storytelling, as the reader is not limited by the thoughts and feelings of just one character.

To learn more about these types of third-person POV, and to see how they compare to first-person POV, you should check out our guide to first and third person point of view in stories.

How to choose the right type of third person point of view for your story

The type of third person point of view you choose for your story should be based on the effect you want to create for your reader.

If you want your reader to feel more connected to your protagonist (and if the book only has a single point-of-view character) then a limited third person point of view would be a good choice.

If you want to create a sense of unease or tension, then an objective third person point of view would be a better choice.

And if you want to allow your reader to see all sides of the story, then an omniscient third person point of view would be the best option.

Dos and don'ts of writing in the third person

When writing in third person point of view, there are some dos and don'ts you should keep in mind:

Do:

  • Make sure your pronouns are clear – use "he", "she", and "it" instead of "they" when referring to specific characters
  • Use descriptive language to paint a picture for your reader
  • Be consistent with the point of view you choose – if you start in limited third person, don't switch to omniscient later on in the story

Don't:

  • Use first-person pronouns – this will break the third-person perspective and confuse your reader
  • Head-hop – this is when you switch perspectives within a scene or chapter, which can be confusing for your reader
  • Overuse omniscient point of view by adding in too many details – this can make your story feel impersonal and distant

Tips for writing in third person point of view

Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing in third person point of view:

  • Use third person point of view to create distance between your reader and the events of the story. This can be helpful if you're writing about a sensitive or emotional topic.
  • Third person point of view can be used to create suspense or tension in your story. Be careful not to overdo it, though, as this can become frustrating for your reader.
  • If you want your reader to feel more connected to your protagonist, consider using a limited third person point of view. This will allow them to see the world through the eyes of your main character.

How to make your story interesting when writing in third person point of view

When writing in third person point of view, there are a few things you can do to make your story more interesting:

  • Use descriptive language to paint a picture for your reader. This will help them visualize the events of the story and feel more invested in the characters. And because the narrator isn't necessarily limited by the knowledge and dialect of the focus character, they can go into greater details.
  • Use different types of third person point of view to create different effects. For example, use limited third person point of view to create intimacy, or use omniscient point of view to create suspense.
  • Have multiple point-of-view characters in your story. Examples of this are in A Song of Ice and Fire series, and in The Expanse series, where chapters are often about different characters. While the narration is still in an omniscient third-person, a given character doesn't often know all that is going on, so switching to a different character can fill in some gaps of information for the reader, or give a different perspective on events.

Conclusion

Third person point of view is a popular choice for writers for many reasons. It allows the reader to feel more removed from the story, and it can be less emotionally taxing for the writer. Third person point of view also allows for more flexibility in terms of storytelling, as the writer is not limited by their own thoughts and feelings.

Write test scenes to help decide early if first or third-person POV is right for your story, and even which flavour of third person is best.

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Posted in Learn to Write on 2021-03-28 18:11:19 - third person, point of view, pov,
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