7/16/2011

Writing Basics: How to Write Limited Third Person


 But what is POV?
                                               
Stories can be told from the eyes of different characters, different viewpoints. The choice of what point of view to use is up to the author, and that choice will influence how the reader will relate to the events in the story.

Today, I’d like to talk about writing in limited third person point of view. Unlike omniscient third person, where a god-like narrator knows everything and can zoom in and out of any character’s thoughts, limited third person means you can only zoom in on one character at a time, and that character will be your viewpoint for the rest of the scene/chapter/novel (More on that later) For now, let’s see what exactly limited third POV means.

Limited third POV enables readers to identify with the character. We are effectively standing in the character’s shoes. We see what they see, know their thoughts, opinions, and feelings. But only theirs. What the other characters in the scene think and feel has to be shown to the reader, either through the use of dialogue, actions or even body language. Don’t tell us a character is angry, show that they’re angry, by having them scream or frown or throw something at the wall. (That’s a very shoddy example.)

But be careful not to break point of view. The viewpoint character can’t know that his girlfriend is sad if she doesn’t show it in some way. Tiny shifts in POV are some of the easiest mistakes a writer can make.

Single POV or Multiple?

As I mentioned earlier, a novel can have a single viewpoint character, or it can be told from multiple point of views. And by multiple POVs, I mean that different chapters will feature different characters. Some even say different scenes, but I like to break POV with chapters. The most important thing is to make sure you have a clear transition.

But what POV to use, you say? Well, I think writing from the viewpoint of the character who knows the least, or the one who has the most to lose is the best way to get the most conflict out of your scene. Beware though, not to get lost in too many characters and subplots that end up overshadowing your main character.  


What POV do you like to use?

Do you find first person easier to write, or are you a limited third person die-hard? What about other viewpoints? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


3 comments:

  1. Sara,

    A new friend here from the Campaign! As for your question, I'm a huge fan, like you, of writing from the perspective of the character who knows the least. It gives them -- along with the reader -- room to discover the new world around them, whether it's dangerous or magical. I enjoy a solid first-person narrative with a good, unique tone! I wrote one of my first novels in third-person and found it so difficult to manage, but when I switched to first for another, it was so much easier, so much more free-flowing and enjoyable to write.

    Thanks for posing this question!

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  2. Hey, Sara, I'm new here from the campaign!

    On POV my books have had first person in them. I do find it's easier to write from than a third person. You sure do have the understanding on this.

    But I'm working on my fourth book, and I could see that something more had to be added and I've mixed it up and added a 3rd person to get inside certain characters' heads so as to tell this story from their perspective. I've avoided it because I didn't want to show the villain's thoughts. But in this 4th one, I felt we needed to see what was going on. I thought it would magnify the problems my protag. would be facing.

    Hope to see you around!

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  3. I'm a first person POV writer. I've tried third, but it's never felt right.

    BTW, I'm a fellow campaigner from the other UF group, just wanted to drop in and say hello. :-)

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