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What is 3rd Person Limited

Third person writing is a common form of voice that is used in storytelling narratives. It gives the reader an outside perspective instead of a directly personal perspective of the events that occur. In 3rd person limited narration, it is only the narrator who knows the thoughts or the feelings a character is experiencing.

The third person pronouns are still used in this form of writing: he, she, they, and so forth.

Where we finding the limitation is in the fact that only one primary character is followed throughout the narrative and only the narrator knows what is going on in the character’s mind. In 3rd person omniscient writing, the narrator would know the thoughts and feelings of everyone and be able to describe them to the reader.

This makes 3rd person limited a more personal form of writing, while still maintaining the outside perspective where the reader is looking in on the world that has been created.

Why Choose 3rd Person Limited for Writing?

In first person writing, the author is very limited in what they can offer to the reader. It’s a very personal experience, but it also means every event and circumstance that occurs in the narrative comes from one character’s perspective. The reader is literally in the shoes of that character.

In 3rd person limited, a writer is given more freedom to explore more of the surrounding events and scenes that occur. Every moment that is offered to the reader doesn’t have to be through the eyes of the primary character. More information is able to be shared to the reader because all of the characters can still be discussed, though there are limitations because those details must still come from the point of view of the primary character.

This is the type of writing to choose if you want the reader to feel very close to a specific character. You can offer specific thoughts, feelings, and emotions without forcing a personal connection onto the reader. This naturally builds bonds with the reader to the character and creates a compelling narrative that is still somewhat inclusive.

What Are the Advantages of Using 3rd Person Limited?

  • You are able to give the reader an opportunity to find clues and experience outcomes at the same time your character does. This is why many mystery stories take advantage of the third person limited point of view.
  • You get to show situations to readers with a personal perspective without the reader risking a personal investment into the character that could be betrayed. Readers who disagree with a first person outcome are more likely to reject future works.
  • You want to have the opportunity to show how a character can change or evolve over time, but you need the reader to be able to see how those changes are being made through the specific perspective of the character.
  • You are able to achieve a higher level of uncertainty about the antagonist and other events that occur in the book, including back stories, emotions from other characters, or scenes that happen outside of the character’s perspective.

What Are Some Examples of 3rd Person Limited Writing?

One of the best-selling series of books of all time uses the third person limited writing style. J.K. Rowling utilizes this format to let readers experience secrets with her Harry Potter series so that the worlds and events are experienced in real time for the readers with the characters.

Several other authors, from Hemingway to Jane Austin to James Patterson, have all utilized this format in some of their works as well.

The reason for this is simple: the thoughts or the responses of a specific character can be revealed without the reader being able to predict what else is going to happen in the future. You could say that 3rd person limited writing keeps the readers “on their toes.”

It would also be fair to say that third person limited writing is more defined by what it does not do in addition to what it accomplishes. This often makes a story easier to write because the writer is not forced to keep multiple points of view offering consistency throughout the narrative.

There are many ways to write a book, but third person limited might be the most effective voice to use.

It eliminates the idea of being omniscient, removes the intimate connections of first person writing, but still keeps the narrative personal to the reader so bonds can form in an advantageous way. That’s why using it can be to the advantage of the writer.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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