What is third-person limited point of view? (With examples)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 22 November 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Understanding different points of view in narration can help develop your writing skills, whether you're creating fictional pieces or educational content on the Internet. The third-person point of view offers a unique perspective in writing. Learning about this writing technique is important if you want to start a writing career or if you want to explore different narration styles to create more relevant and engaging content. In this article, we discuss the third-person limited point of view, describe when to use it and offer some tips for writing with it.
What is the third-person limited point of view?
The third-person limited point of view is a writing style where a reader can experience and feel a character's thoughts, emotions and introspection through the narration. This type of writing is common in fictional stories, where the reader consumes information a narrator describes to them. Although the third-person point of view is uncommon in nonfiction works, such as blogs, social media posts or company documents, there may be instances where implementing this technique could help prove a point or offer a narrative message.
Types of third-person point of view
There are many different types of third-person perspectives an author can use when creating a narrative. The limited point of view refers to and focuses on a character by using their name or third-person pronouns. Here are the characteristics of other third-person styles of writing:
Third-person omniscient point of view: An omniscient narrator knows everything about the story: its characters, ending and setting. A writer who writes in third-person omniscient can move freely throughout the story to talk about events at different times and reveal internal information about all characters as they wish.
Limited omniscient point of view: A limited omniscient point of view or a 'close third' point of view, focuses mainly on one character with occasional diversions to explain different plot points and introduce new characters. By limiting the reader's perspective of the story and introducing information through the limitations of a particular character, a writer can add more suspense and intrigue to the story.
When to use a third-person limited point of view
Learning when to use this perspective in your stories is an apt way of developing your writing style. Here are a few instances when you could implement a third-person point of view:
When creating suspense
With this point of view, the narrator provides readers with information at a controlled pace, meaning that events unfold and develop with suspense. Some genres such as mystery, thriller and horror implement this writing style to ensure the audience learns the whole scope of the story slowly. With this point of view, the narrator attempts to showcase what the protagonist experiences as they witness events in the story. This method allows the reader to relate to the character.
When showing perspective
Writers use this limited point of view to create perspective in their stories, which allows the reader to follow the main character's journey. One crucial aspect of a good story is the development of its characters to show how they change as events occur around them. A limited point of view allows the reader to experience this evolution alongside the character, making the audience feel more connected and invested in the story.
When creating uncertainty
From an omniscient point of view, the narrator can reveal information about the story as they wish. This omniscience can help convey various elements of a story but limiting how much information the reader receives creates more uncertainty. If the main character experiences danger, the reader may wonder how the character may react and what the outcome may be. When there's uncertainty in a story, there's more suspense and emotional investment.
Tips when writing in a third-person limited point of view
Writing in the third person may present challenges, as the writer seeks to extract a character's experiences, thoughts and feelings. Here are some tips to help you develop your narrative skills:
Become the character
To implement this limited point of view, the author helps the reader care about the story and its main character. To do this, they relay the character's internal monologue, desires and thoughts. Many writers spend significant time crafting their characters in their stories to ensure there's consistency between how characters interact with each other and respond to certain situations. Consider brainstorming about your character's traits to ensure you write about them uniformly.
Consider variety in perspectives
One of the advantages of using third-person perspectives is you can alternate between characters and provide the reader with more variety to help them understand the story better. For example, a narrator may talk about the main character's perspective and reaction to an event in one section and then switch to another to provide more context. It's important for fictional works to consider all characters' perspectives, as it allows the reader to become more immersed in the world.
Maintain a consistent point of view
Whilst it's important to include variety in your story and show how different characters may interpret information, it's important to do so in a controlled manner to limit confusion for the audience. If a writer talks about one character's perspective and then switches to another suddenly, it can be challenging for the audience to know which character they're following. To ensure readers understand what's going on, make sure to explain one point of view before switching to another so there's a clear distinction between them.
When an author limits the information they provide to the audience, they can enhance the story and create better characters and plot development. If an audience knows what happens in the story and what all the characters feel, it may take away from the story's enjoyment. Even omniscient third-person narrators limit information to some degree unless implemented retrospectively. The author controls what the audience interacts with, especially when using a limited point of view.
Examples of third-person limited point of view
Here are some examples of this point of view to help you understand the writing style:
Example of a horror narrative
Review this example that demonstrates George's point of view:
George gets up to go to work every morning at seven o'clock sharp. He splashes his face with cold water and looks at the silhouette in the mirror. He grows wearier of waking up to this mundane routine every minute but he feels stuck. George hears a faint buzzing sound in the back of his head that grows louder and louder until he can recognise the distinct, blaring, high-pitched tones of his ringing phone. Groggily, he walks over to his bedside table and checks who's calling him.
An unknown number? Typically George wouldn't even entertain answering such a call but today he longed for a break in his routine. So, he answered. George didn't even have time to say a simple hello before the distorted voice began talking to him. 'They're coming for you', the voice said.
Example of a slice of life narrative
Consider this example that reflects Claire's point of view:
It was a long day of work for Claire, who felt exhausted and didn't know if she could make it home. She took a light nap on the train and before she knew it, her station was coming up next. That 40-minute commute felt like five. She found a neatly packaged parcel waiting for her when she arrived at her doorstep. She hadn't ordered anything, so she wondered what it could be. She was aching with anticipation as she rushed to get through her door.
She hurriedly opened the parcel on her kitchen table to find an intricate and luxurious box inside. Even more curious, she opened the box to find a beautiful white dress with a letter on top of it. Unfolding the letter, she realised it was an invitation to her sister's wedding next month! She squealed with excitement and tried on the dress instantly. All indications of her being exhausted evaporated. She couldn't wait to see her sister married.
Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.
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