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8 Third Person Writing Tips

When you’re reading a novel, then there’s a good chance that what you’re reading is from the third person perspective. This is because third person writing is not limited to the sounds, sights, and experiences of just one character. The end result is a narrative which offers more depth to the world being created, allowing the reader to immerse themselves into the story.

To experience success, these third person writing tips will help you be able to keep your narrative consistent.

#1. Have your perspective be limited or omniscient, but not both.

If you write from an omniscient viewpoint, then you can write from the point of view of any character in your narrative. Limited viewpoints will only see into the mind of one character at a time. It’s okay to have one or the other, but it is awkward to have both. Choose one and then stick to it.

#2. Choose your tense and stick to it.

One of the traps that third person writing offers is the tense of the wording in your narrative. It is very easy for writers to switch between the present narrative and the past narrative without even knowing that they are doing it. You’ve got to stay conscious about the tense you’ve chosen as you write to make sure it stays consistent.

#3. Define your voice before you write.

Each character needs to have their own personality and focus. It’s unrealistic to have everyone be happy. It’s unreasonable for everyone to be optimistic. You should have characters which are also sarcastic, serious, humorous, serious – this helps the reader experience the entire gambit of the human experience. It also adds realism to your narrative.

#4. Eliminate the “he said, she said” formatting as much as possible.

Dialogue can really be a struggle when writing in the third person. This is because the writer naturally wants to put a “he said” or a “she said” or even a “they said” at the end of each statement a character says. This creates a very choppy narrative over time which becomes extremely difficult to read. Most readers are going to be able to figure out which character is saying each piece of dialogue – especially when the dialogue is included within the narrative.

#5. Keep your point of view consistent.

Once you’ve started writing in the third person, then you need to finish the story with that focus. Switching back and forth from first person and third person narratives is confusing for the reader. It’ll be confusing for you and your editor as well. So stick to your guns, stay consistent, and your story will thank you for it at the end of the day.

#6. Keep the adverbs out – show readers, don’t tell them.

Adverbs can have great impact when they are used strategically. They lose their impact when they are used all of the time. Writers tend to include adverbs as a way to describe how dialogue is being offered in a specific situation, but there are other ways to let the reader know what is going on. Instead of relying on the adverb, show the reader what is happening. “He said angrily,” can become, “He slammed the pen on the table. ‘I disagree.’”

#7. Transitions cannot be ignored.

Writing in the third person may give you some extra liberties when it comes to your point of view, but that doesn’t mean you have free reign. You still need to include transitions between the various components of your story so that you have one narrative instead of multiple short stories that are just smashed together. Let one section flow into the next by creating a timeline that makes sense. When Event A happens, the Reaction B happens, and then Outcome C occurs. Your characters respond. Then repeat.

#8. You can still include thoughts and feelings.

Some writers tend to prefer first person writing because thoughts and feelings can be easily included within the narrative. The same is true with third person writing as long as it flows naturally with what the character is doing. Thoughts and feelings will give each character life, but they must stay with consistent with who that character happens to be as a person for it to be realistic.

Writing in the third person can certainly be a challenge, but with a little practice and these third person writing tips, you can successfully write a great story. Get started today and see where your next narrative will take you.

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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