Third person POV isn’t distant, here’s why

This article is second in a series that begins with “What perspective and POV is right for your story?” This week, third person POV.

Third Person POV

In a story told in third person narrative style, the writer uses names and pronouns to refer to every character, except in dialogue or internal direct thought.

3p Omniscient

The perspective can be “distant” (third person omniscient) if all the inner thoughts and feelings of all the characters are shared in the story.

This narrative perspective is usually from someone not involved in the story, but who knows everything about everyone and their involvement in the story. Classic fairytales are written in 3p omni. The old “bard tales” were also omniscient, because they often had learned the story from people involved in an event who shared their feelings and decisions.

3p Close, limited

However, if the author controls the narrative and gives perspective to one character, this is called third person, close, limited. It is close because it allows readers to walk in one character’s shoes, giving them time and space to get close to them and wonder along with them and encounter situations and emotional responses when they happen and not figure things out too much before the characters do.

Example

Joe walked down the street, whistling a tune he remembered from the times his mother would tuck him into bed each night as a child. Seeing Ralph — the bully who used to tease him when he was 12 — exit the store up ahead, he ducked into the alley to avoid him. He had seen Ralph’s face and guessed the glare was for him.
Some things you never outgrow, even at 30 years old, Joe thought. Fear of Roughhouse Ralph was one of them.

3p close, rotating

Very popular today is writing in third person, but giving perspective in different scenes to a different character. This is third person, close, rotating. Two or three, or more, characters take turns being the narrative perspective character.

To be effective, when writing in 3p rotating, every character you choose to give a scene from their perspective should have at least one personal goal that is separate from the story goal.

Next time… Deciding which will be best for your story

Fiction author, editor, and teacher willing to share what I’ve learned and what I’ve taught others to improve their writing.