Writing Do’s and Don’ts: Third Person POV–Limited & Omniscient

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Writing from Third Person Point-of-View (POV) Limited & Omniscient

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Third person point-of-view is also favored by many writers. I don’t typically write in third often, but there are times where I think it works better than first. If you’re not used to writing in third person, it can be a challenge.  Here’s some tips to keep in mind if you want to write your story in third person limited and omniscient POV.

DO:

1. Decide whether you want to use third person limited or omniscient.

Limited: The narrator can only write from the mind of a single character. It’s similar to first person, except it is told from a narrator’s POV instead of from the main character’s.

Lena peered at her best friend, Maria, and wondered what she was thinking.

Omniscient: The narrator can write from multiple character POVs.

Lena peered at her best friend, Maria, and wondered what she was thinking. Maria couldn’t believe that Lena had just said that.

2. Instead of using “I”, “we”, and “our” like you do in first person, use pronouns such as “he”, “she”, “they”, etc.

The exception is dialogue, when a character may use first person pronouns.

3. Make sure your character(s) have a unique voice.

Sometimes it can be a challenge to make your main character(s) shine. This is especially important if you go with omniscient and have many characters to portray. Make sure they stand out from one another, rather than all seeming to be the same.

DON’T:

1. Get trapped into “telling” too much.

The “show, don’t tell” rule still applies. Don’t bore your readers with lengthy paragraphs of telling.

2. Overuse “she/he”.

Just like writers can overuse “I” in first person POV, they can also overuse “he/she” in a similar way. Here’s a example:

Carly woke up starving the next morning so she got up quickly and went downstairs to fix some breakfast. She made some scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. Then she poured herself a glass of OJ and she piled her plate with food before plopping down in front of the TV. She munched on a piece of toast as she turned on the TV and changed the channel.

Now, here’s an example replacing some of the she’s:

As soon as Carly’s eyes opened the next morning, her stomach began to angrily grumble for food. She hurried downstairs and made herself a breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. After piling her plate with food, Carly poured a glass of OJ and plopped down in front of the TV. Munching on a piece of toast, she turned on the TV and changed the channel.

See how much better that sounds?

What are your thoughts concerning third person? Do you like reading and/or writing in it?

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4 thoughts on “Writing Do’s and Don’ts: Third Person POV–Limited & Omniscient

  1. Ok, so I’ll see if I can explain this correctly. If I’m writing a specific character’s POV for that chapter can I describe him? What he looks like, dressed like..etc… or does that have to come from another POV of someone who is looking at him?

    1. Yes. If you’re using first person, you can do something like this:

      I finished getting ready, grabbed my bag, and headed downstairs. My long, dark blonde hair flowed down past my shoulders, almost covering the green swirls on my shirt. Big Aviator sunglasses hid my green eyes from view. I’d painted my lips a bright pink today, which matched my pocketbook.

      Third person would be like this:

      Emma finished getting ready, grabbed her bag, and headed downstairs. Her long, dark blonde hair flowed past her shoulders, almost covering the green swirls on her shirt. Big Aviator sunglasses hid her green eyes from view. She’d painted her lips a bright pink today, which matched her pocketbook.

      Not the best examples in the world, but does that help at all?

  2. hi I’m taking a creative writing class and my next assignment is to write a short story In third person limited I need all the help I can get the last thing I had to do was a scene and I got an 82% but I could write that anyway I wanted the third person limited has me worried any extra tidbits I should know about thank you gail

    1. I apologize for the delay.

      Other than what is listed, I don’t have any other tips. Just be mindful that limited means you can only tell the story from one person. So no filling in what other characters may be thinking (I see that happen sometimes).

      Example: Sara looked over at Jess, who was thinking about baseball.

      Sara can look over at Jess and could guess that she is thinking about baseball, but unless she is psychic, there is no way she can know for sure. So it would need to be reworded to: Sara looked over at Jess, who seemed to be thinking about something. Probably baseball.

      Hope that makes sense.

      Best of luck with your class and have fun with it!

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