Point of View: 3rd Person Close


Last time we discussed the first-person point of view, and while I admit I have a certain fondness for it, more often than not I write in the third person.  Third person POV is what I would call the “cinematic” point of view. Instead of seeing things through the eyes of a character (or be told by a narrator who witness the events) we see things as an spectator that has no input or physical presence in the work itself, like a theater audience or the camera in televisions or movies.  This POV has two formats, close (also known as limited) and omniscient (not to be confused with objective/subjective). Since omniscient has fallen out of favor, and it is not one that I like to use I’ll focus on close third person instead.

Another way of visualizing third-person close is as an over the shoulder view, as in many video games.   Think of it as an over-the-shoulder-look (or camera view) common in third person games. You can see your avatar as well as the world around him, but the camera remains locked on him through out. So no matter the perspective the character remains at the center of the action.

This tight focus on the main character retains some of the intimacy of first person POV but with enough a separation to maintain the fourth wall as well as grant the reader a wider view of the action.

To quote Amy:

I think I like third because it allows a tighter grip on narrative distance,

Distance is key. You can still get into the MC’s head (as in subjective storytelling), but you can also move things around him or her and while his perspective colors the action, he is also part of the picture. Reliability goes up a notch as the reader can see things that perhaps the MC misses, especially when it comes to environmental details. The writer can focus on the larger scenery while retaining the focus. And finally, it allows for a nice insertion of multiple points of view as well.

Well that is all for third-person close/limited. Final post will focus on adding multiple points of view to the narrative.

Don’t forget to check out my entry as part of the Fight Scene BlogFest, tomorrow on SuD.

And now for some music:


7 comments on “Point of View: 3rd Person Close

  1. Having written my first ms in first person I decided to take a break from the perspective for a while and try third person. Mostly because I found first person fairly limiting. My problem with writing in third person is I keep trying to jump into first person at times.
    Thanks for the explanation.


  2. I have to agree with Cassandra – I find first person somewhat limiting as well. I tried writing one of my novels in first person, but there were too many parts of the story that had to be left out so I gave it up. Maybe some day I’ll give it another try, but in the mean time I’m happy with third person.


    • @Cassandra:

      I followed the same pattern. My first ms was in 1st person, but I used 3rd person on the rest (except for a few shorts). Again, scope and focus are the key.


      I find that I go by instinct when it comes to POV, discovering which one fits best as I go.


  3. Oh my, I’m quoted. 🙂

    Nice post, Ralph. Yay for third limited! I keep meaning to try my hand at omni somewhere down the road, but it’s by far the hardest perspective of them, at least in my mind.


  4. I detest close third rigorously. Classical omniscient is my one way to go. None of your propaganda will change that.


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