How to Write in Third Person

Using Third Person Point of View Properly

When writing fiction, there are four «voices» or points of view from which to choose. First person, second person, third person and omniscient. Perhaps the most popular and frequent choice, third person point of view is also probably the easiest to master proficiently.


Step 1

He, She and It

Using third person, you’ll be telling the story from the point of view of one or several of the characters from outside (rather than using the more internal «I» and «me» of first person point of view.)

Words indicating third person are «he,» «she,» and «it.»

Examples: He walked to the door and opened it.

NOT: I walked to the door and opened it. (This example is using first person.)

NOT: You walked to the door and opened it. (This example is using second person.)

Step 2

How Deep Do You Want to Go?

Further breaking apart the use of third person, there are a few ways to use this point of view. Third person limited, multiple third person, and third person omniscient. Each has its own style and use, and you’ll determine which is the best for your story based on what point of view you feel will work best.

Third person limited = The story is told from ONE point of view only, though in third person. Your story might be told from any of the characters’ viewpoints, but only one.

Third person multiple = The story is told from multiple points of view, all in third person. You might choose to use one character’s point of view in one chapter, then switch to another character’s point of view in the next, but all points of view come from the «he, she and it» rather than «I» or «me.»

Third person omnisicient = The story is told using «he,» «she,» and «it,» but rather than being limited to a single character’s point of view, or even more than one, the narrator of the story is able to tell everything about the entire world of the story, no matter where it is or how it’s happening.

Step 3

Watch out for Head Hopping!

Head hopping is the practice of switching between multiple points of view without a natural break between them. It can be confusing for the reader to follow. While it’s possible to use multiple points of view in one story, a good way to utilize the thoughts and feelings of more than one character is to limit switching to chapters or section breaks. Paragraph to paragraph is possible but may lead to confusion, and sentence-by-sentence switching can be quite disruptive to the flow of the story.

EXAMPLE: He walked to the door and opened it, looking out at the snow beyond. It was beautiful, just like his wife. «Hi!»

Stella answered. «Oh, hi.»

HEAD HOPPING: He walked to the door and opened it, looking out at the snow beyond. It was beautiful, just like his wife. «Hi!»

Stella answered with a smile for her handsome husband. «Oh, hi.»

A good tip about whose point of view to use when writing a scene is to think about who has the most at stake in the scene, or who is the most important character in that scene. That is your likely choice for which point of view to use.

What You Need
• A story to tell.
• A good grasp of who the characters are and which are most important.
• The desire to tell the story from a slightly more distant perspective.
• An understanding of the difference between points of view.

Tips & Warnings
• Third person point of view can still provide a deep look into your character’s thoughts, even though it’s not the more personal first person format.
• Your point of view character should have the most at stake or be the most important in the scene.
• Stick to one type of point of view — mixing first and third person can be confusing (unless well separated by chapter or other breaks.)
• Avoid head hopping!


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