How to Write Point of View, Part 4, Third Person Limited

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Hi SErs! Harmony here 🙂 Today, I’d like to talk about how to write Point of View (POV) in the Third Person Limited perspective–otherwise known as Third Person Close.

Third Person Point of View is unique because it has degrees of distance, unlike First and Second Person POVs. The Third Person lens can be dialled up close so it focusses on one individual at a time (Limited), or the lens can be left wide-angle to encompass everything and everyone (Distant or Omniscient).

What is Third Person Limited POV?

This perspective uses the pronouns He, She, and They. This sort of narrative keeps the reader at more of a distance from the protagonist and action than do First and Second. Third Person POV is the most commonly used perspective in fiction writing. Below is an example of Third Person Limited …

By the time Jen gets home, her husband will be dead. It’s hard to not smile at the thought. She has the best alibi an abused and beaten wife could ask for, sitting here having dinner and drinks with three of her oldest friends. It won’t matter how strong the police believe her motive to be. Not when Jen has all these people, and her credit-card bill, putting her right here from 7 until 11 pm. By the time she gets home, at around 11:30 pm or so, it will all be over.

In Third Person Limited, a narrator tells the reader about the characters and events. Such a narrator can be invisible or more overt. In most fiction, the Third-Person narrator remains invisible and in the background.

The Pros of Third Person Limited POV:

  1. Although this perspective doesn’t offer the complete freedom of Third Person Omniscient, it does offer much more freedom than either the First or Second Person lenses.
  2. This POV allows you to show the thoughts and feelings of an individual character without being trapped in the character’s head in the way you are in First Person.
  3. In this perspective, you can maintain a level of uncertainty about your secondary characters. Their pasts, secrets, emotions, and agendas can stay ambiguous.
  4. You can have more than one POV character (written one at a time).
  5. You have more flexibility with sentence construction and openings because you can choose from a range of pronouns and proper nouns.

The Cons of Third Person Limited POV:

  1. Third Person POV keeps the reader at arm’s length from the characters and action.
  2. The more characters the narrative focusses upon, the more diluted the reader’s connection can become.
  3. Less possibility of an unreliable narrator; although, this can be worked around. I pulled this off to good effect in my second book The Glade while using Third Person Limited. But it’s not as easy as when you’re in First Person.

Why would you write in Third Person POV?

This perspective gives the writer the luxury of telling the story from multiple viewpoints and offers the ability to write different accounts of events.

Top Tip: Each character needs his/her own thinking style. However, the narration style needs to remain consistent.

In Summary: Third Person Limited POV is told from the perspective of someone (or something) that is not part of events as they unfold. Such an observer can remain overt or covert within the story. Through this lens, you can show multiple characters, so long as you visit them one at a time. This viewpoint is the most common in fiction.

That’s it from me today. I hope you’ve found this post useful. I’ll see you again on Monday 4th October, when we’ll take a look at Third Person Distant POV 🙂

Bio Box for Harmony Kent that links to her website

Part 1, Overview, can be found HERE.

Part 2, First Person, can be found HERE.

Part 3, Second Person, can be found HERE.

©2021 Harmony Kent

50 thoughts on “How to Write Point of View, Part 4, Third Person Limited

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  7. Thanks Harmony. Most interesting. In one novel, I used third person successfully for the male protagonist, but tried first for the female character. It apparently worked, but of course care has to be taken when switching, although a few readers enjoyed the first person POV the most! I do find it easier to write in the third person – there is so much more scope. Cheers!

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  8. Pingback: How to Write Point of View, Part 5, Third Person Distant | Story Empire

  9. Most of my stories are in third person limited POV. I enjoy multiple POVs if done well, but I prefer when authors keep them all in third person instead of first person/different chapters. My soon-to-release novel is in first person, so that was quite different for me. I enjoyed writing in her voice, but I’ll probably go back to third person for new novels. It gives me more freedom. Lol! Great post, Harmony! 🙂

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  10. I’m enjoying this series, Harmony. I never think about the perspective when I start writing, it just kind of happens. It would be fun to decide which POV to do before the story. Great example that clearly shows the what is it!

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  11. Another fantastic segment in the POV series, Harmony. Third Person Limited is the most comfortable POV for me to write in. Someday, when I’m brave enough, I will try to expand that to Omniscient Third Person, but that one’s tricky. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge on POV!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve explored all the POVs and tenses in my writing, but I prefer third person past tense. For reading, too. Though lately a ton of thrillers have moved to first person, which used to bother me but I’ve grown to be okay with. It used to feel like a YA voice but now it feels genre-appropriate. Funny how times change.

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  13. Great post, Harmony, I’m learning a lot. Some stories lend themselves to the third-person POV, and when managed well, I love it. These days I seem to read more first-person POVs, and I seem to write in the first person. But who knows what might entice me next. 😊

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  14. I’m a fan of third person both as reader and writer. I also love omniscient when an author does it well.
    There was a day I would’t touch a book if it wasn’t written in third or omniscient, now I find myself reading a lot of first person and first or third present tense. POV truly does effect how a reader reacts to a story.
    Nice continuation of the series, Harmony.

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  15. I prefer to write (and read) in third person POV. I’ve only written one story in first-person (a flash fiction piece), but I couldn’t envision it any other way. Now that I’m reading a lot of psychological fiction, several of them are written in first person. Another informative post, Harmony.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: How to Write Point of View, Part 4, Third Person Limited | Legends of Windemere

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