third person point of view PDF Print E-mail
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Point of view is the perspective from which a story is told. We may choose to tell our story in

    * first person, using "I" or "we";
    * third person ("he," "she," "it"), which can be limited or omniscient; or
    * second person, "you," the least common point of view.

As a writer, you must think strategically to choose the point of view that will allow you to most effectively develop your characters and tell your story.

Definition: The third person point of view is a form of storytelling in which a narrator relates all action in third person, using third person pronouns such as "he" or "she." Third person point of view may be omniscient or limited. Often new writers often feel most comfortable with first person, but writing in the third person allows a writer more freedom in how a story is told.

Examples: Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice, like many classic novels, is told from the third person point of view:

    When Jane and Elizabeth were alone, the former, who had been cautious in her praise of Mr. Bingley before, expressed to her sister how very much she admired him.

    "He is just what a young man ought to be," said she, "sensible, good humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners! -- so much ease, with such perfect good breeding!"

2. We can find a more recent example of third person in Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Again, though it's Yossarian's story, he isn't telling the story to us. Note the dialogue tags (e.g., "he answered" and "Orr said.") In third person, you'll never see "I said" or "we said."

 "What are you doing?" Yossarian asked guardedly when he entered the tent, although he saw at once.

    "There's a leak here," Orr said. "I'm trying to fix it."

    "Please stop it," said Yossarian. "You're making me nervous."

    "When I was a kid," Orr replied, "I used to walk around all day with crab apples in my cheeks. One in each cheek." 

    Yossarian put aside his musette bag from which he had begun removing his toilet articles and braced himself suspiciously. A minute passed. "Why?" he found himself forced to ask finally.

    Orr tittered triumphantly. "Because they're better than horse chestnuts," he answered.

3. Finally, contrast these with a first person example from Moby-Dick. In this case, the story is told by Ishmael, and he speaks directly to the reader. Everything is from his perspective: we can only see what he sees and what he tells us. In this case, the dialogue tags, of course, vary between "I said," when Ishmael is talking, and "he answered," when the other person speaks.

    "Landlord!" said I, "what sort of chap is he -- does he always keep such late hours?" It was now hard upon twelve o'clock.

    The landlord chuckled again with his lean chuckle, and seemed to be mightily tickled at something beyond my comprehension. "No," he answered, "generally he's an early bird -- airley to bed and airley to rise -- yea, he's the bird what catches the worm. -- But to-night he went out a peddling, you see, and I don't see what on airth keeps him so late, unless, may be, he can't sell his head."

    "Can't sell his head? -- What sort of a bamboozingly story is this you are telling me?" getting into a towering rage. "Do you pretend to say, landlord, that this harpooneer is actually engaged this blessed Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning, in peddling his head around this town?"

 

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Quotation

Andrew Greeley
Andrew Greeley
I write easily, let's put it that way. And in a novel particularly, the characters take over. And they tell me what to say and they tell me what they're doing. And I'm a third of the way into a novel and then I just let the characters finish it for me.

3's flash

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