Today, it’s back to the tried and true, a format you’re probably much more familiar with than yesterday’s Second Person. Yes, today we write in Third Person, Limited Omniscience, perspective.
All of which means, you get inside a character’s head and stay there.
Write A Story in The Third Person, Limited Perspective
- As with First Person, there is no head-hopping in Third Person, Limited. The difference is that everything is told in ‘he’ or ‘she’, rather than “I” and the character is not talking directly to a reader.
- In Third Person, Limited, you still have to stay with the protagonist and what he/she knows. No popping out of character to look behind the curtain. Oh, there’s an example: the Wizard of Oz movie. The audience learns everything about that world at the same time that Dorothy does. The Wizard knows he’s just ‘the man behind the curtain’ all along, but Dorothy — and therefore, the audience — learn it in a big ‘reveal’ near the end. If this story was being told in Third Person, Omniscient, the film makers could have cut away and shown us the sham-wizard before Dorothy even gets near to her goal. That would have made for a different experience for the audience, don’t you agree?
- The fact that the reader stays with the protagonist is one reason this is such a popular format for thrillers and mysteries. You, as the writer, can keep secrets from audience, only revealing them when it’s important to the character. Because you are pulling the strings, however, you can use your knowledge to foreshadow things that are coming up (if you’re a plotter. Otherwise, you’ll have to go back in and do this in the revision stage!)
- Use today’s story as an exercise in trusting the reader. Pledge not to use the words “he thought” or “she felt” or “he assumed” or anything like that. Allow your protagonist to make declarative statements in their thoughts, without explaining that ‘she thought’. Here’s an example: “Sykes flops his entire torso out the window and yells, “Hell yes I’m drunk baby and I’m married too! But I’ll still love you ugly in the morning!” This gets the girls laughing and for a moment there’s hope, but Billy can see the light already dimming in their eyes. He sits back and pulls out his cell; they were probably never serious anyway.” (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: A Novel by Ben Fountain) It’s pretty clear that “they were probably never serious anyway” is Billy’s thought, isn’t it? But the author never feels the need to tell us this. Try it out in your story today.
- As an experiment try re-writing your First Person story in Third Person Limited today.
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