Rotate third-person limited to avoid issues

Sometimes writers structure their book so that the third-person limited point of view alternates from scene to scene between major characters in a book. However, within each scene, only one of those characters’ point of view is used. This literary device is known as third-person rotating limited.

I used this technique in my novel Windmill. Each scene switches to the perspective of one of the four main characters. Their stories overlap to form the larger novel, with each character akin to a windmill’s turning blades, each metal sliver catching the glint of the sun (The sun is a symbol in the book for “truth.”) in a slightly different way. Each character symbolized a unique approach to an issue, so seeing how they incrementally dealt with obstacles arising in the plot aided in the examination of the book’s theme.

Indeed, such a storytelling technique offers several advantages:
• Can get inside more than one character’s head – A story told solely in first-person, second-person, and third-person limited points of view can only be told from one character’s perspective. As with third-person omniscient, a rotating point of view allows the writer to tell the thoughts and feelings of multiple characters; unlike third-person omniscient, however, rotating the third-person limited perspective allows the writer to hyperfocus on each character.
• Lacks omniscient point of view’s disadvantages of being impersonal and implausible – Third-person limited allows writers to tell a story from a more personalized perspective, allowing the reader to better connect with the character; rotating allows for this connection to exist between the reader and multiple characters. In addition, since each of the main characters’ motivations will be better understood, some behaviors by characters won’t appear inexplicable, as they might in an omniscient narrative.
• Maintains a consistent narrative voice for each character – When using an omniscient viewpoint, many novice writers try to make the narrative’s tone imitate the character’s personality. Called the imitative fallacy, this results in a disjointed voice or rhythm to the narration. Focusing on the perspective of a single character in a scene, however, usually eliminates this problem. A rotating point of view allows each of the major character’s personalities to come out in a way that reads smoothly.

The literary device sometimes is referred to in literary circles as episodically limited third person omniscient.