Kelly Abell Books

Writing Tips for Writers

Tip #37 - A Look at Third Person Point of View

Posted on December 11, 2011 at 10:55 AM

Third person POV can be quite confusing and take on many forms. A writer needs to be cognizant of their utilization of those forms. In this blog entry I will attempt to help you as a writer distinguish between the types of third person POV and how to successfully use them in your writing.

The first method of third person narration is the Dramatic or Objective Point of View. This method is used most often by writers and involves rendering action and speech that all the points of view share. You are not in a particular person’s head from a narrator’s standpoint. The presentation is limited to only what is spoken and what happens. There is no presentation of inner thoughts of the characters. This leaves readers the freedom to react on their own accord, much like a jury in a trial.

Next let’s discuss the Omniscient Point of View. Omniscient means all-knowing. This narrator can see all, know all and potentially disclose all. Here the speaker of the novel presents not only action and dialogue but also reports the inner thoughts and reactions of the character. In reality we can never know what is in another person’s mind, but we make assumptions and that is the purpose of the omniscient point of view. This can add dimension to the characters in a novel.

Within the omniscient POV you may have the Limited or Limited-Omniscient POV and this focuses on the thoughts and deeds of the main character in a story. Personally this style works well for me. Here I can present my character’s thoughts and motivations. The reactions and emotions of my characters take on a depth I can’t accomplish with dramatic point of view. It gives a story richness without limiting whose eyes a reader can view a story through.

Limited-Omniscient POV leads many editors criticize writers for “head hopping”. With head hopping a writer adjusts this Limited-Omniscient POV too quickly and without a scene break. It can be utterly confusing for a reader when a writer presents a scene from two limited-omniscient points of view. That is not to say that you can’t use more than one Limited-Omniscient POV but it is easier on your reader if you have an obvious scene break or chapter break prior to changing which character’s thoughts and emotions you are presenting. This is particularly important in love scenes or arguments. You can illustrate what your POV character is observing and that will give you the ability to show your reader what is happening without getting into the other character’s head.

Third Person POV can be an easy way to tell a story and give a writer the ability to richly describe the events and actions of a story as well as demonstrate the deepening of all the writer’s character’s development. Write on my friends and enjoy exploring many different points of view for the depth they can add to your stories.

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2 Comments

Reply Frank Allan Rogers
12:08 AM on December 12, 2011 
Thank you, Kelly Abell. Your writing and editing experience has taught you how to analyze and discuss creative work from a technical viewpoint. And you do it in a simple, easy-to-understand fashion. I always learn from your writing tips, whether the topic is new material for me or a refresher course.
Reply Richard E. jmuz
6:09 AM on March 3, 2013 
Mary Todd Lincoln (December 13, 1818 - July 16, 1882) was born in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1818, to a large family headed by the prosperous Robert Todd, and his first wife, Elizabeth Parker Todd. When Mary was only seven, Elizabeth died and Robert married Elizabeth "Betsy" Humphreys Todd. Between the two marriages, sixteen children were produced, including Mary. Mary had a rocky relationship with her stepmother, and she fled in part by attending Madame Mentelle's fine boarding school, where Mary received an elite education and learned fluent French (which served her well as First Lady when the Lincolns hosted the emperor and empress of France).