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Close 3rd Person POV

Guest Author - Sally Apokedak

Because of the limitations inherent in the first person point of view, writers will often opt for the third person.

But the third person pov brings different limitations to the table. It is more distant that first person, for one thing.

Look at a passage written in the two points of view.

The First Person Point of View:
The principal pushed her glasses down until they crashed into the wart on her nose. She glared at me over the silver rims. "Mr. Balderdash!" the old banshee screeched. "What are you doing in the hallway at this time of day?"

I couldn’t keep from shrinking back. The woman was scary. Every inch of her was scary, from her fungus-covered toenails, to her stubbly chin, to her black-rooted, bright red hair.

She pointed down the hall, her arm stiff as a corpse's. "My office. Now!"

So she was as crazy as she was scary. There was no way I was leaving the safety of the public hallway for the dark, dank den she called an office.

You get a feel for young Mr. Balderdash. He exaggerates. The principal is a woman, not a banshee. So maybe she doesn't really have fungus on her toenails and stubble on her chin. We can't be sure from this short piece, because the one thing we do know is that this kid, Balderdash, is dramatic. He sees banshees and corpses and dark dens, in the everyday setting of a school.

What if this scene were written in third person? Would we lose some of the intimacy we have with our narrator?

The Third Person Point of View:
Michael watched, trembling, as the principal pushed her glasses down until they crashed into the wart on her nose. She glared over the silver rims. "Mr. Balderdash!" the old banshee screeched. "What are you doing in the hallway at this time of day?"

Michael shrank back, afraid of the woman. He thought every inch of her was scary, from her fungus-covered toenails, to her stubbly chin, to her black-rooted, bright red hair.

She pointed down the hall, her stiff arm reminding Michael of a corpse after rigor mortis had set in. "My office. Now!"

That's when he knew she was as crazy as she was scary. There was no way he was leaving the safety of the public hallway for the dark, dank den she called an office.

There are several phrases there which distance us a little bit from Michael Balderdash. Michael watched and He thought and reminding Michael of and That's when Michael knew.

In each instance we are standing outside of Michael, watching him, as he watches the principal.

It's better for the reader to be the main character, rather than to see the main character.

Can we achieve that using that third person narrator? I think so.

To use third person and keep us close to the character, get rid of the places that tell us that the character saw, heard, smelled, tasted, felt, thought, and knew. Just tell us the bell rang, not that Michael heard the bell ring.

The Close Third Person Point of View:

The principal pushed her glasses down until they crashed into the wart on her nose. She glared at Michael over the silver rims. "Mr. Balderdash!" the old banshee screeched. "What are you doing in the hallway at this time of day?"

Michael shrank back. The woman was scary. Every inch of her was scary, from her fungus-covered toenails, to her stubbly chin, to her black-rooted, bright red hair.

She pointed down the hall, her arm stiff as a corpse's. "My office. Now!"

So she was as crazy as she was scary. There was no way he was leaving the safety of the public hallway for the dark, dank den she called an office.

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POV -- Who's Interpreting Events?
POV -- Types of Narrators
Point of View ~ First Person Narrators
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Content copyright © 2014 by Sally Apokedak. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sally Apokedak. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Annamaria Farbizio for details.

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