Drum roll please! I will finally, without much more fan fare and false promises to post it, be talking about the third person POV. After that, I wanted to talk about writing internal dialogue.
Let’s dive into third person POV, with that definition:
Third person: The third-person point of view belongs to the person (or people) being talked about. The third-person pronouns include he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs, and themselves.
And to make things even more fun there are two types of third person POV: omniscient and limited.
Omniscient: the narrator knows all of the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but to break it down further… This is also commonly referred to the “god” perspective. The character or narrator know everything that is going on in the story. They can dive into different characters heads at any given moment. They can definitely give a full view of everyone and everything in your story.
Limited: the narrator only divulges his or her own thoughts, feelings and knowledge of various situations and other characters.
Limited is the most commonly used POV — aside from first person. The narrator sits outside the story and tells us about what is happening to the characters in the story. If you’re looking for a great example of a book written in third person limited, look no further than J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
Do’s and don’t’s:
- Don’t head hop too much if you’re using third-person omniscient. Going into too many heads or hopping from one head to another is not going to endear your readers to your story. It’s going to break some great moments in your story and it is going to dissipate your tension. It’s recommended that you keep to one head per scene or per chapter.
- However, this doesn’t mean you can’t head hop at all. You just do it smartly. A good way around the head hopping problem is by dedicating a chapter to one character’s POV. The next chapter someone else and so on.
- Do ensure that you’re making it clear which character’s head the reader is in. This could be by changing fonts between characters (Christina Lauren), by creating a break (through lines or asterisks) or as previously stated dedicate a chapter to a certain character by adding the characters name to the start of that chapter.
- Don’t give your characters information they shouldn’t have. If this is confusing, please let me explain. Let’s say your viewpoint character, Bob, doesn’t know that his wife Betty is cheating on him. Now, your reader and narrator may know this is happening, but Bob is still blissfully ignorant of it. Bob shouldn’t just all of a sudden know that this is happening without him stumbling across some clues, being told about the affair, him walking in on Betty with some other person or any combination of these things.
- Do make your characters unique! This is essential for any character regardless of the type of POV you use, but it is essential if you’re head hopping. This way your readers can tell, hopefully without any other clues, that your character viewpoint has changed.
- Do take charge of your narration. This definitely applies to the omniscient POV, but this can also be applied to your limited POV as well. You can have your narrator philosophize on certain points, take a stance on a topic of interest or to comment on the scenery around your characters. Several examples of this can be found in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. For example, in the quote below someone, either Lizzy, or the occasional narrator that pops in, comments on the status of her parents marriage and takes that stance that marriages need to be formed between people of similar temperaments in order to be successful.
“Had Elizabeth’s opinion been all drawn from her own family, she could not have formed a very pleasing picture of conjugal felicity or domestic comfort. Her father captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour, which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence, had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown.”
- Don’t forget to talk about your other characters. This is especially important for third person limited. As much as you should be focusing on your one character, you need to give your readers a sense of what their friends or family is like as well. Vague notions of these people aren’t that interesting!
Another other thing to keep in mind when writing in the third person is the immediacy of the events that take place in your story. A good example of what I mean would be in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. The story is told from the perspective of a boy immediately after events have occurred, which gives the story a sense of urgency. However, if we took that same story and then had it told from an older Huckleberry Finn’s perspective, then the story would lose some of that urgency. Another way to demonstrate this is if you compare Huckleberry Finn and Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember, but I’ll let you guys do that one on your own.
That’s it and that’s all for me this week! As previously mentioned, we’ll be talking about internal character dialogues and how to make their thoughts appealing. I’m excited about this topic as I feel like it’s something I struggle with in my writing at times, so I’ll be learning about it along with the rest of you.
Until next week!
One tendency I have to police myself on is not to slip into head-hopping or omniscient point of view. I have to watch it, and remember to use a LIMITED number of characters and points of view to tell the story.
I think a lot of it is also determining what type of third person POV you’re most comfortable with too. There’s nothing wrong with slipping into the omniscient third person POV. It’s just a matter of consistency and yes not head-hopping too much.
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