How to Write Point of View, Part 5, Third Person Distant

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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 Distant perspective–otherwise known as Third Person Omniscient.

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 Distant POV?

This perspective uses the pronouns He, She, and They. This sort of narrative keeps the reader at the furthest distance from the protagonist and action than any of the other styles. Third Person POV is the most commonly used perspective in fiction writing. Below is an example of Third Person Distant (Omniscient) …

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. Even though the police will want her badly for her husband’s murder, it won’t matter because 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. Or so she thinks.’

In Third Person Distant, a narrator tells the reader about multiple characters and events at the same time. The Third-Person Distant narrator is less invisible than in Limited because of their all-knowing viewpoint, which puts them further outside the character’s heads. In this omniscient point of view, the narrator can see into multiple minds and see into the future as well.

The Pros of Third Person Distant POV:

  1. In Omniscient mode, the narrator knows all, sees all, and tells all.
  2. This lens offers the writer the most freedom of all the viewpoints.
  3. You can write from as many character’s heads as you wish at any time, and you can see into the future and know things that a more limited viewpoint couldn’t.

The Cons of Third Person Distant POV:

  1. In Omniscient mode, you cannot have an unreliable narrator because all is known and seen.
  2. You run the risk of chronic head hopping, which annoys many readers.
  3. This lens keeps the reader at the furthest distance than any of the other viewpoints.
  4. There is no opportunity to maintain a level of uncertainty about your secondary characters. Their pasts, secrets, emotions, and agendas are all known.
  5. The unlimited perspective of Third Person Distant can dilute your reader’s connection to the characters and events.

Why would you write in Third Person Distant 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, as well as seeing into the future and knowing things the characters do not.

Top Tip: Be careful to avoid chronic head hopping. While you may write in this style, you need to make sure you do it well. Two authors who have used head hopping to good effect are Stephen King and Winston Graham.

In Summary:Third Person Distant POV is told from the perspective of someone (or something) that is not part of events as they unfold. Such an observer is usually obvious to the reader throughout the story because they know things each individual cannot know and flit from head to head. Through this lens, you can show multiple characters. This viewpoint is one that many readers detest due to the tendency for chronic head hopping and confusion.

That’s it from me today. I hope you’ve found this post useful. I’ll see you again on Friday 29th October, when we’ll take a look at Common Pitfalls with choices of 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.

Part 4, Third Person Limited, can be found HERE.

©2021 Harmony Kent

58 thoughts on “How to Write Point of View, Part 5, Third Person Distant

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  7. oh how interesting. New to serious writing and hadn’t thought about the idea of head hopping? I am a bit stuck in a biography at the moment which is all third person omniscient but I am finding it frustrating. Raring to go for a first person perspective next time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. When I first wrote my series, there was head-hopping everywhere. Luckily, authors (like you) pointed it out, and I revised the whole series so that there was separation when a different character’s perspective was taking place. It’s really easy to slip, which is why having others critique your work is so important. Great post, Harmony! 🙂

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  10. Excellent post, Harmony. I find omniscient extremely hard to write because the temptation to head-hop on the one side and then the distance it creates from the reader on the other. I think the key is to omniscient is being very clear about who the narrator is and having a distinct narrator’s voice. Great examples to demonstrate your points. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have to be careful of head hopping, Harmony. It was actually not something I even knew about when I started writing. I have had helpful editors point this out to me over the last four years and I work hard at not head hopping. Thanks for this useful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I don’t like distant 3rd POV to be honest. I’m one of the readers that gets annoyed with it, more especially the tendency to head hop. Plus I feel like you don’t really get close to the character as you could with close 3rd POV. Good thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Another good post on POV, Harmony:) I like this if it’s only used sparingly in a story to set a moment or scene. It’s a good tool if used well. Good example that really showed what it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I am loving this series on Points of View, Harmony! Omniscient POV is awesome when it is well done. I have read some books where the author took it a little too far, getting into the heads of every character, even a ghost, and a dog. That was overkill, to me. I’m not sure I have consciously tried to write in this POV but would like to give it a go. Thank you so much for sharing! This is great information.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Another great post, Harmony. Thank you for explaining and offering concrete examples. It helps me understand and think about my own writing. Well done!! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I like this POV but it is difficult to pull off unless you know what you’re doing. I don’t write in omniscient but I do enjoy books written that way. Some authors are skilled with this POV but I’ve seen others bungle it with the dreaded head-hopping.
    Another excellent entry in this series, Harmony!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I shy away from omniscient point of view because as you say, it’s too easy to sound like head hopping. Only the most skilled writers can pull it off. I won’t say “never” because I once said I’d never write in first person present tense. Guess what? I’m considering that for a short story!

    Enjoying the series, Harmony.

    Liked by 1 person

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