“All about Third Person”

Any type of third person takes advantage of the pronouns he, she, it, or they.

  • He thrived on the sound of her beating heart as it hammered against the cage of her ribs.
  • She stared at her reflection, watching in horror as a wicked grin spread across the face in the glass.
  • It dug its claws into the flesh of its opponent, leaving behind three gaping wounds.
  • They spread their wings, catching the scent of their prey in the warm northern winds.

There are two types of third person, omniscient and limited. Third person omniscient requires an all-knowing narrator whereas third person limited is more character-centric. In omniscient, the audience can gain insight into events prior to the story, history, or legends not necessarily known to the character(s). In limited, the audience will only see events and share the knowledge of the characters’ whose perspective he/she reads through.

  • In a forgotten castle deep within the misty marsh, an entire kingdom’s history lay in ruins, no more than a ghost of its former self. Its halls still carried the stench of those massacred several centuries ago.
  • Colette ran the bow skillfully over the strings of her violin, the mournful melody resonating throughout her body and reverberating over the watching crowd. Her heart soared as her performance reached its climactic conclusion–perfection!

Each type has pros and cons. So, let’s explore!

One key benefit of third person is that it enables the writer to take on a greater world view and a  variety of perspectives. The freedom to explore through more than one character’s point of view permits the author to more easily weave the web of their tale. The author may best execute this advantage to inform the reader of a full picture of events while restricting the individual character(s) to his or her own perspective. Keeping a character in the dark, or coloring his/her perspective by only what he/she can see, allows the author to create room for emotionally charged scenes and differences of opinion based on knowledge. This tends to lead to an increase in tension and conflict. This method, however, also creates a series of potential disadvantages.

Telling a story from a third person perspective has the potential to create a rift between the reader and the characters–as the reader is no longer reading solely through a single character’s eyes and now has the added ability to see through the perspective of an all-knowing, reliable narrator, who must relay the facts of the story without any additional coloring. While it is true a character can lie, the narrator should not as he/she is the story’s overseer and already knows how the events transcribed are going to play out start to finish.

In order to break down this distance, it is important for the writer to create a cast of strongly relatable characters. From the not-so-heroic protagonist, more commonly known as an antihero, to the mysterious side character and beyond to the tragically hopeful antagonist, it is vital to creating characters who are easy to connect with and “human” on some level.

  • Allegra yanked helplessly at the comb trapped within the knotted mess of her curly blonde locks.
  • George shamelessly belted out the chorus of his favorite pop song as his fingers massaged the fruity shampoo into his scalp.

Each reader, especially those with curly hair, has had a bad hair day like Allegra, where the beast simply refuses to be tamed. Many also enjoy singing their favorite jam in the shower or know someone who does. These everyday hassles and hobbies can create relatable characters, no matter the genre of the tale.

A final word of advice: Never be afraid to reach outside your comfort zone!

No matter the point of view, or tense, you decide to use, be open to experimenting and trying your hand at new and exciting ways of writing. Every writer should aim to be dedicated to constantly learning and improving his/her craft. This includes adding skills and tools to your arsenal at every opportunity.

Try to write a short scene in three different points of view (like Xaneria did in the introductory post) and later try your hand at the same/similar exercise writing in the various tenses.

You might surprise yourself!

Vivian St. Crow

Vivian St. Crow is a feast and famine writer, who hails from central Virginia. She enjoys wandering through cemeteries and exploring forgotten places. She’s an adoptive mother of dragons and avid lucid dreamer.

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