Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Many Faces of the Third Person

Some people might be surprised to learn there's more than one way to write in the third person. I know I was downright shocked.

Bear in mind, this post is written from the perspective of an author, namely me. What readers will see in the final edition of a story, is something else altogether.

Here's what I've learned so far about third person, and I'm hoping this helps other people as well. I'll break it down into categories.

The Observer – The observer is the author, simply observing and writing down everything they see in the story. Some would call this dry literature, or even a boring story, and for certain stories/authors, I'd agree. But this one is most dependent on how observant the author is. The more observant, the more interesting the writing. The Observer is related to Bird's Eye View, which is also known as Second person. But this post is about Third person, so I'll stick with that.

The Storyteller – This is the author again, speaking directly to the reader with their own commentaries. Some authors have a lot more to say than mere observations and really enjoy playing narrator. This one works best for authors who are highly imaginative and able to create whole fictional worlds. It's not exclusive to the Fantasy genre, but it's more obvious with that genre than any other. With the Narrator, the reader really gets the sense they've been invited personally into this author's creative mind.

The Romantic – Commonly known as Third Person Limited. This is where the author has to be very observant. It's practically playing God with every single tiny aspect. Everything in the story is fully described in detail, from events, memory flashes, actions to character emotions and! It's always written from the perspective of one character. There's a fine line between Third Person Limited and First person. The author is almost invisible and all the reader sees is the main characters. Though not exclusive to the genre, it is commonly used in Romance. The emotions of the main characters tell the story, and the author doesn't really exist.

Now, I do feel it's entirely possible for an author to be more than one or even all of the above, in many different genres. For those who are just getting started with writing, all of this may seem daunting. If you're still at the newbie phrase or even at a more advanced stage, willing to experiment a little, try writing a bit from each. It's good practice if nothing else.

Like trying on clothes, sometimes you'll never know what fits perfectly until you try :)

I'll save my thoughts on Third Person versus First Person for another post.

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