What is the Third Person Point of View?

A Readathon Celebrates The 200th Anniversary Of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice
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The third person point of view is a form of storytelling in which a narrator relates all action in third person, using third person pronouns such as "he" or "she." Third person point of view may be omniscient, in which the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story, or limited, in which the reader can only know the thoughts and feelings of one of the character's perspectives.

Often new writers feel most comfortable with first person, but writing in the third person allows a writer more freedom in how a story is told.

A trick to remembering the difference between omniscient and limited is to think of yourself - the author - as either a G-d, in which you can "see" everyone's thoughts (omniscient), or a mere mortal, who can only know what is going on inside one person (limited).

The most important rule for using any point-of-view is to be consistent. As soon as you "slip" from one point-of-view to another, the reader will pick up on it and you will lose your authority. Your job as the writer is to make the reader feel comfortable in your hands while taking them into your world. But in order to do this, the reader must feel "couched" or settled, and trust you to take them where you want them to go. If a reader is trusting the author to tell the story from a limited third person narration, and suddenly, on page 6, we are informed that the lover of the protagonist secretly does not love him anymore, you have lost the reader.

There is no way for someone to know a secret without the person telling them or having someone overhearing them, or reading something someone wrote, or hearing it from a third party. In this way, third person limited is like first person, but uses "he" or "she" instead of "I".

If you're unsure about which is right for your story, read an article on choosing a point of view, or a discussion on point of view in response to a blog post.

Examples: Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice, like many classic novels, is told from the third person point of view:

When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister how very much she admired him.

"He is just what a young man ought to be," said she, "sensible, good humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners! -- so much ease, with such perfect good breeding!"

Still have questions about third person? Read some more examples of third person from classic fiction.

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