3rd Person POV


Earlier this month I discussed point of view and my reasons for recommending the first person point of view (POV) to new writers. You can read that post here.

This time I want to discuss using third person point of view (POV), and the best ways to use it in your storytelling.

Definition of third person:

Basically, Third person has sentence structures that use “he”, “she”, “it”, or “they”, but never “I” or “we” (1st person), or “you” (2nd person). That is to say, third-person POV is a narrative mode where the main characters are referred to by their names or relative pronouns. The narrator observes the main characters but does not actively participate in the story.

In my opinion, and that of many, using third person gives the author greater flexibility for creative storytelling.  That is likely the reason it is the most commonly used narrative mode in literature. Examples of third person books are Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter (third person limited).

The third-person POV is usually divided into two types of storytelling, subjective or objective.  Subjective narration describes one or more character’s feelings and thoughts.  Objective narration does not describe any of the characters feelings or thoughts. (I have not read a modern story that is written in Third person objective narration, if you know of one please post the title and author. For the remainder of this post we are talking about Subjective Narration.)

Also third person POV is also divided by the knowledge that the narrator may access.  These distinctions are called omniscient and limited. In an omniscient mode the narrator has knowledge of time, people, places and events for everyone in the story.  In limited mode the narrator may know absolutely everything about a single character (usually the main character), but cannot know things about anyone else.

Third Person Limited in Harry Potter:

In the story we only know Harry’s thoughts and Harry must be present to overhear information or see the actions of others.  One of the ways the author allows Harry to be present in scenes where Harry is not interacting is with his invisibility cloak. The author had to create a device that we, the readers, would believe or accept in context, in order to give us information that we needed to move the story forward.  A great example is when Harry is under the cloak and learns that Sirius Black was his father’s friend, and betrayed his father.  Technically, Harry should not know that information, the adults had been keeping information from Harry, but we the readers need to know. (Interestingly enough Harry overhears false information that spurs his actions in the story)

Now that you know the various ways that you can use third person look over one of your first person stories, and try to rewrite a scene into a (subjective) third person POV.  Decide if your narrator will know everything (omniscient) or just one part (limited).

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