Use third–person limited for greater clarity

One type of third-person point of view is third-person limited. This is when the narrator tells the story only from the perspective of what the main character can observe and think, but unlike first-person limited, we also observe the main character through the author’s eyes.

Here’s an example of third-person limited:

Nevar nervously separated the tools she needed for the flight, and Evod, finally quiet, helped. She admired her family’s craft, a sleek saucer powered by duo artificial singularities that warped and folded space so they could outrun even light. The others around them had begun performing the same preflight checks that she and Evod had done hours before, and soon all the port seemed a blur of activity, like a rain flurry with drops flashing in every direction.

She tried observing the others in action, watching their repetitive and certain motions, but Evod herded her into the spacecraft. “Focus, focus!” he snapped, and she knew he was right, that she must stop behaving like a child at a sucrose stand.


Notice how we see events unfolding through the eyes of Nevar, the main character: Evod’s noisiness, the port activity, Evod’s admonition. We do not see the world through the perspective of her competitors or of Evod. Further, the word “I” never would appear in the piece unless spoken by someone; that’s because Nevar isn’t telling the story – the author is. The author even offers a small comment, describing Nevar’s movement as “nervous” (Nevar might not describe them as such!).

Third-person limited offers several advantages:
• Gives the writer more flexibility than first-person point of view – If the story above were told only from Nevar’s point of view, the author could not offer his perspective on her. The audience no longer would be looking upon the stage that the main character acted but would be standing upon it in the main character’s body.
• Provides a less biased perspective – Stories told in first-person also carry the weight of the main character’s subjective views and perspectives. Sometimes this can make the protagonist less acceptable or likable to a reader, who is more enlightened than that character. Third-person limited moves the reader to the usually more enlightened perspective of the author.
• Offers a clear sense of who the reader should identify with and invest in – Stories told only from the main character’s perspective sometimes don’t make that persona the hero but someone whose weaknesses cost him. The author’s insertions show readers how they should view the character. Because of that, readers often like this point of view.

One danger of third-person limited, however, is that the reader loses a sense of intimacy with the main character. Rather than fully experience the universe with the main character, the reader can feel too superior to him. If your goal is to have the reader relate to the main character, then this may not be the best choice for your story’s point of view.