POV talk: 3rd person

There are many POVs with questions surrounding all of them. I want to break them all down and discuss the biggest concerns in different posts. Today, I’ll talk about 3rd person POV.

3rd person

3rd person has the most variety out of all POVs. There are three types: 3rd omniscient, 3rd objective, and 3rd limited.

omniscient

3rd omniscient is like you’re a mind-reading ghost. You get to watch the story from a distance, but you can also get close and see all characters’ thoughts and feelings.

This one has a narrator with a strong voice to capture the readers’ attention.

objective

3rd objective is like a security camera, watching the story unfold. It keeps a detached tone. It’s like a hearsay story through a neutral, unrelated machine.

In this POV, readers cannot hear the characters’ thoughts or feelings. The way to make this POV work is through descriptive writing. In the draft phase, writers should aim to over describe everything.

Limited

3rd limited is what the name says: limited. Instead of following multiple characters, the narrator follows one character around. But they can also follow one character for a chapter and switch—instead of following one for an entire book.

How do I create a strong narrative?

This is hard to develop, and it can take a lot of practice.

I approach it with the questions: What is the tone of this chapter? And what is the main character’s or narrator’s approach to what’s going on?

For example, if the tone is more humorous, the main character or narrator could tell jokes or be sarcastic.

Monif knew he was going to be late. Like his alarm, he never was one to be on time.

Or annoyed:

Lucy’s phone buzzed. Ugh. It was Trevor.

Or unbothered:

James walked the plain, white school halls. He shuffled his feet, not seeming to care if they scratched the floor.

This also can change per scene. Stories don’t stay stagnant, so neither should the narrative.

How do I differentiate characters while writing in one character’s voice?

This can be tricky, but one way I do it is through characters’ emotions and beliefs.

Even though Nina may think of herself as a caring person, Helan may think she’s selfish. So, while in Nina’s POV, her tone will be sweet. But if in Helan’s POV, the tone would be annoyed at how selfish she is.

Characters who are close or know each other well might seem similar. But no one knows everything about everyone—even people they’re close to—so it could be useful to explore that.

Every character is different, even if it’s slight. I try to purposely make some of my characters stand out, so perhaps find a unique trait and build off of that.

I can try to expand on this in its own post if y’all want.

How do I fix head hopping in 3rd omniscient?

It’s not about fixing it but doing it well.

Head hopping is when the narrator reports the thoughts or feelings of different characters back-to-back. It can get dizzying for the readers if not written well. For example:

“I hope you know that this won’t work,” Tanisha said, remembering the warning Eli gave her the night before.

In the next room over, the children stopped playing with their building blocks. They looked at the cracked door, wondering what was going on on the other side.

Lucrecia frowned and raised her voice. “What do you mean it won’t work? I’ve thought this out a million times already. It’s bulletproof.” Tanisha doesn’t know what she’s talking about, she thought.

Pearl looked between them. She tried to figure out the best method of calming the situation before it got out of hand like last time.

Each paragraph goes into a different POV from Tanisha to the children to Lucrecia to Pearl. When head hopping, it’s important to ask: whose POV is best for this moment?

Is Pearl’s POV important or can the readers see her look between them and tell her emotion from there? Do the readers need to know what the children think or can they guess by having them stop playing and look over?

“I hope you know that this won’t work,” Tanisha said, remembering the warning Eli gave her the night before.

In the next room over, the children stopped playing with their building blocks. They looked at the cracked door.

Lucrecia frowned and raised her voice. “What do you mean it won’t work? I’ve thought this out a million times already. It’s bulletproof.”

Pearl looked back-and-forth between them.

Now, this example may not be 100% the best, but hopefully you can see how much smoother it is. If writing with multiple characters in mind, stay in one POV for a moment before head hoping into another’s thoughts or feelings.

Hope this helps! If you have any questions, leave a comment below!

Click here for POV Talk: 1st person.
Click here for POV talk: 2nd person.

6 thoughts on “POV talk: 3rd person

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