Character Creation 102: Third Person

Welcome back to the RADblog! I hope you all enjoyed the last two months with Tammy—I know I had a lot of fun finding out more about her and the many lives involved in writing.

Now, you’re stuck with me for the next two months. Mwahaha! No, but really, we’ll have fun.

For the month of September, I thought we should take some time to go back to those pesky characters we discussed back in May and June, only this time, I think we should discuss how to write from them, instead of from you.

Character Creation 102: Point of View

POV can be tricky, to the point that many young writers struggle with it throughout the beginning of their writing career. Either we pick a POV and stick with it through thick and thin, or we flip flop back and forth and can never decide what POV a story actually needs. See, there are three unique points of view, and each one should be used in certain circumstances, but it’s hard to tell which one to use when. At the end of this month, I’ll give you a good key for figuring out which one to use when. Today though, let’s get onto the next point of view.

Third Person:

In the Mind of All

Don’t worry, I am well aware that third person does not necessarily mean that you’ll be spending all your time in many character’s minds. In fact, I know it’s quite common for writers to spend time in the mind of only one character, though it’s third person. But that’s not quite as common for beginners, so it’s not what we’ll be spending as much time on today.

But, what is third person anyway?

This one’s a little bit easier. Unlike first and second person, there’s not generally crossover with third. Occasionally it’ll slip into second person, but it’s not as common. If an editor finds it in your manuscript, they’ll probably cut it out.

Why? Because third person consists entirely of “he,” “she,” “his,” “hers” and variants thereon. It’s the point of view that’s defined by several characters, which allows the writer to get into the minds of many characters at once, or many characters in general. It can be a point of view that’s very close upon the narrator of any given scene, or a point of view that’s broad and allows readers to get into the minds of every character in the room at once.

Third person narration is also one which many writers stick to when they first start out, because for many of us, it’s the easiest point of view to master. When done well, it’s easy to read and doesn’t make readers as nervous, and in some ways it’s easier to write, because we’re allowed to get inside more than one character at a time.

Of course, just like with first person, that’s also what makes it a crutch. If it’s the only point of view you write in, then over the next few weeks I’ll be challenging you to change that. But for right now, let’s focus on how awesome third person narration is.

This, of course, coming from someone who has written an entire sci-fi novel series in third person, and who currently has a fantasy series being released primarily in third person.

I love third person.

Yeah, I really do.

Though I love how close I can get to a single character in first person, I love how much more intrigue I can add into third person. I love how I can vary how deeply I go into my characters, how easily I can add mystery and thrill by not telling my readers every single thing about the characters involved. At the same time, I love being able to give every last scrap of detail as well, as is allowed by third person. I can show the same scene from multiple character’s points of view, to reveal new sides to the same story. It allows my readers to understand exactly what I want them to understand, and then some, because now they’re able to see inside the minds of more than one character at once—which, after all, is something we cannot do in real life.

My readers get to be a fly on the wall, to view a story from every possible angle, which can be an extremely beautiful thing.

If you’ve never written in third person, I would strongly challenge you to do so. To write something in close third person and in omniscient third person. See what it’s like to be in one characters head, and then in many. See how it is to write through a different medium entirely.

You’ll understand more of your characters far better than before, because you won’t just be writing from the point of view of the one.

But again, how do you know when a story should be written in third person?

You’ll just have to wait until the end of the month for my thoughts on the matter.

Rani Divine
Associate Editor, etc.