Types of third-person point of views

By far, the most common point of view used in literature is that of third-person.

When the narrator is not a character in a story, a third-person point of view is being used. All characters in a third-person tale are referred to using pronouns such as hesheit or they but not Iwe or you. The latter three pronouns would place the narrator within the story.

Authors like third-person narration because it offers a tremendous amount of flexibility in plotting and character development. While first-person and second-person points of view limit the writer to the perspectives of a single character, third-person opens the story wide. The story can be told from the viewpoint of several characters, all of whom can grow to varying degrees.

Third-person can be thought about by using two different scales: limited/omniscient and the subjective/objective.

The limited/omniscient scale runs between two extremes. Third-person limited occurs when the narrator tells the story only from the main character’s perspective. In contrast, third-person omniscient allows the narrator to tell the story from multiple characters’ perspectives.

The subjectivity/objectivity scale also stretches between two poles. Third-person subjective (aka third-person intrusive) incorporates the narrator’s commentary about what is occurring in the story and was popular in the 19th century among such writers as Charles Dickens. Third-person objective (aka third-person impersonal or third-person unobtrusive) leaves out the narrator’s editorializing and was championed by such 20th century writers as Ernest Hemingway.

Of course, the two scales can be combined. For example, a story could be written in third-person limited objective, in which the narrator focuses on the perspectives of a lone character and offers no commentary on the story’s action, or it might be in third-person omniscient subjective by telling the tale from the perspectives of multiple characters with commentary from the narrator about the value of their thoughts and actions.

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My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.