One of the most popular techniques seasoned fiction authors use to engage their readers is to tell their story from the third person point of view.
Why is that? Because this POV allows them to present their plot and characters from an outside perspective, and this outside-in angle creates a much more immersive experience for their readers.
Now, writing in the third person is easier said than done and it doesn’t come without a number of challenges.
Having said that, you don’t have anything to worry about because in this article we’re going to break down third-person writing down to its basics.
In fact, we’re going to demystify this POV and teach you techniques, tricks and tips so you can master third-person writing in order to create a more compelling narrative for your readers.
So grab a pen and paper and get ready to take your writing to the next level!
Do Readers Prefer First or Third Person?
Before diving into how to write in third person, it’s important that you understand the key difference between the two most common points of view in fiction writing: first and third person.
First person point of view involves telling the story from the perspective of a character who refers to themselves as “I,” in other words, from inside their mind.
Third person point of view, on the other hand, is when the story is told from an outside perspective, using pronouns like “he,” “she,” and “they.”
In this POV, someone else is talking about the character and that someone could even relate to the reader things and circumstances that the character is not even aware of.
Now, both first and third person writing have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to storytelling, but regardless of that readers will have a preference for one over the other.
Some readers find first person point of view more engaging, as it allows them to intimately connect with the protagonist and experience the story through their eyes.
Others prefer the third person point of view because it provides a broader perspective of the narrative, allowing them to gain a better understanding of the characters and the world in which they inhabit.
Examples of popular books written in first person include The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Conversely, books written in third person include Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Third Person Writing
As mentioned above, the third person point of view comes into play when your story is narrated from an outside perspective, using pronouns such as “he,” “she,” or “they.”
It allows you to present your story from a more objective and impartial standpoint, which can be useful in situations where you may want to give your reader a wider view of the narrative.
Some of the benefits of writing in the third person include:
- Allowing your readers to see your story from multiple perspectives
- Offering a broader view of your narrative
- Creating a more objective and impartial tone for your story
However, third person writing also has some drawbacks, including:
- Feeling less personal and engaging than the first person POV
- It may make it more challenging to create a sense of intimacy between your readers and your characters
- It may also create distance between your reader and your story
Main Types of Third Person Writing
Great. Now let’s break down the third person POV into different types. While there are many variant and sub-variants for this type of writing, they all stem from the following three main types, each with its own unique characteristics and limitations:
Third Person Limited
Here, the narrator focuses on the thoughts and feelings of a single character. This is the most common type of third person point of view used in modern fiction writing.
Third Person Omniscient
Here, the narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of all the characters in the story. This type of point of view allows for a more comprehensive view of the narrative.
Third Person Objective
Here, the narrator simply reports the facts of the story without providing any insight into the characters’ thoughts or feelings. This type of point of view is often used in journalism or news reporting.
Is It Hard to Write in Third Person?
It depends. Writing in third person may seem daunting at first, but with practice, it can easily become second nature.
Here are some tips to help make writing in the third person a bit easier to figure out:
1. Start with an outline
Having a clear outline of your story or scene will help you keep your eyes on the prize and avoid confusion when writing in the third person.
Outlining your story beforehand will also help you keep track of your characters, their motivations, and your overall plot.
2. Use vivid descriptions
Writing in third person allows you to paint a vivid picture of the setting and the characters, so use descriptive words to create a clear mental image for your reader.
However, be careful not to overdo this realism since too much description could actually slow down the pacing of your story.
3. Be consistent
This tip is critical for your success. One of the biggest challenges of writing in the third person is maintaining consistency, so make sure to keep the same point of view throughout the entire story and avoid jumping from one perspective to another.
4. Use proper nouns
Proper nouns, such as character names or specific locations, can help avoid confusion in your writing. Using proper nouns can also help give your writing a sense of specificity.
5. Use the omniscient point of view sparingly
While writing in the third-person omniscient point of view is one of the main three options, be careful when using it. It can be challenging to write and it can also become confusing for the reader to process. Reserve the omniscient point of view for when it’s necessary for your story.
Last but not least, the more you practice writing in the third person the more comfortable it will become. Take some time to write short stories or scenes in the third person to help you master the technique.
In preparation for your practice, make sure to read plenty of well-written third person narratives from acclaimed authors so you can learn from the pros and develop your third-person writing muscle.
With time and dedication, you’ll be able to master this writing technique and create captivating stories from an outside perspective.
How to Write in Third Person About Yourself
Here’s a trick question: how do you write in the third person when the main character is, well… you! This is actually more common than you think, especially if you’re planning to write a memoir or a personal essay.
While it might feel strange to write about yourself in the third person at first, this is actually a great way to add a level of objectivity to your work.
Here are some tips on how to write in third person about yourself:
Use your name instead of “I” or “me.” Referring to yourself by your name can feel impersonal at first, but it’s an effective way to distance yourself from the story and add a level of formality.
Don’t make assumptions about your thoughts or feelings. When writing in the third person, it’s important to only include information that you can observe or infer. Stick to the facts and leave the interpretation up to the reader.
Keep the tone consistent. If you start by referring to yourself in the third person, make sure you continue to do so throughout the entire piece. Switching back and forth between first and third person can be confusing and jarring for readers.
Don’t be afraid to get feedback. Writing about yourself can be a vulnerable experience, but it’s important to get feedback from others to make sure your writing comes through as clear and effective. Find a trusted friend or writing group to share your work with and ask for their feedback.
Ten Tips for Writing From the Third Person POV
To bring it all together, let’s close with ten tips to help you master the third-person writing technique like the pros.
Use the tips below in any particular order:
- Remember to stay consistent. Once you choose a point of view, stick with it throughout the story.
- Focus on the character’s actions and words. Avoid writing about your character’s thoughts or feelings unless it’s something that can be observed or inferred.
- Use dialogue to reveal character traits and emotions. Show and don’t tell your reader how a character is feeling.
- Use sensory details to immerse your readers in the story. Describe what your character sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind.
- Avoid head-hopping. Don’t switch between different characters’ perspectives within the same scene.
- Use body language to reveal emotions. Show the reader how your character is feeling through their body language and actions.
- Use the third person limited point of view to create a stronger connection between reader and character.
- Use the third person omniscient point of view for a broader view of the story and to reveal information that the character might not know.
- Use the third person objective point of view for a more objective and impartial view of the story.
- Practice, practice, practice. Writing in the third person point of view takes practice, so keep writing and experimenting with different techniques until you find what works best for you and your story.
Wrapping Things Up
Writing in the third person point of view can be challenging, but with practice and patience you’ll find that it’s a powerful tool for presenting your plot from an outside perspective.
Remember to stay consistent, focus on action and dialogue, and use sensory details to immerse the reader in your story.
Whether you’re writing a short story, a novel, or a personal essay, mastering the third person point of view will help you add depth and complexity to your writing.
So, don’t be afraid to experiment and take your readers on a journey that’ll keep them coming back for more!
Harry Wallett is the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing. Combining his entrepreneurial background with a love of great stories, Harry founded Relay in 2013 as a fresh way to create books and for writers to earn a living from their work. Since then, Relay has sold 3+ million copies and worked with 100s of writers on bestselling titles such as Defending Innocence, The Alveria Dragon Akademy Series and Rancher’s Family Christmas. Harry oversees the creative direction of the company, and works to develop a supportive collaborative environment for the Relay team to thrive within in order to fulfill our mission to create unputdownable books.
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