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Writing Exercise – Point of View: Third Person

by | May 6, 2018 | General, Writing Exercise | 7 comments

by Ashley Lister

Over the past couple of months we’ve looked at first and second person point of view. Whilst both of these are useful ways to convey a sense of story, neither of them are as popular as third person point of view.

 

The parlour was quiet enough so Victoria could hear the tick of the Grandfather from the hall outside. Stark spring sunlight filtered through the net curtains to illuminate the elegant furnishings. The family’s finest bone china was laid out on a lily-white tablecloth. The afternoon tea was completed with freshly baked French fancies. Sitting comfortably in one of the parlour’s high-backed chairs, Victoria placed one lace-gloved hand over the other, adjusted her voluminous skirts, and stared down at Algernon as he knelt before her.

 

If first person point of view is like a diary entry, and second person is like a recipe, I like to think of third person point of view being where the story is narrated from the perspective of someone sitting on the shoulder of the main character. Notice, in the example above, we’re told how Victoria can hear the tick of the Grandfather: but we don’t have Victoria telling us she can hear it. This distancing of narrative voice removes us slightly as readers, so we’re not as fully invested in the character. However, we are able to get a full picture of the world from the main character’s perspective: a much fuller perspective than we would have had from the somewhat limited perspective of a first person narration. (NB This fiction comes from my short story ‘Victoria’s Hand’).

 

She knew what was coming.
She had anticipated this day for months.
Before he started to speak, she knew what he was going to say.
It was the first time they had ever been together without a chaperone. Unless he had come to the house with this specific purpose her parents would not have allowed her to spend any time alone with a suitor. The idea of her being alone with a man was simply too scandalous for civilised society to contemplate.

 

“Victoria, my dearest,” he began.
There was a tremor of doubt in his voice. Victoria liked that. It suggested he wasn’t entirely certain that she would say yes. His bushy moustache bristled with obvious apprehension. His Adam’s apple quivered nervously above his small, tied cravat. His large dark eyes stared up at her with blatant admiration. He looked as though his entire future happiness rested on her response to this single question.
She was dizzied by the rush of rising power.

 

Third person is one of the most popular points of view and, in the contemporary marketplace, it’s the go-to position for writers when they’re trying relate events. Obviously, this will feel more natural for some writers than others. However, as with all the tools at our disposal as writers, it’s well worth trying this point of view to see how it works for your narrative voice.

As always, I look forward to seeing your work in the comments box below.

Ash

About the Author Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439)

Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.

7 Comments

  1. Personally, I enjoy writing in 3rd person as it gives you the ability to express everyone’s thoughts and emotions. My first couple of stories were in first person but now I only write in 3rd person.

    • I like the slight distance that 3rd person has over 1st. If I’m jumping into 1st person it has to be because I want to work with a different narrative voice. In third person, I’m usually in the fortunate position where I can relate the story in my own voice.

  2. My choice of third versus first person is often based on how much distance I want between my character and my reader, as well as how empathy I want to reader to feel. I sometimes choose third when my characters are a bit clueless, in a way that I want my readers to understand.

    I still prefer first for erotica.

    Third is the best choice, as Larry says, when you have many characters. Here’s a bit from my erotic romp Hot Brides in Vegas:

    “Excuse me. I wonder if you can help my friends and me.”

    The concierge looked up from his tablet computer. The lobby was mostly empty—except for the vision standing in front of his desk. He swallowed the lump that rose in his throat. He couldn’t do much about the one in his groin. The girl—no, woman—had golden hair that flowed past her shoulders, pale-peach skin, a lithe, athletic body, and the face of an angel. She was, to all intents and purposes, naked. Certainly the tiny scraps of fabric that comprised her bathing suit did almost nothing to hide her charms.

    “Um—what?”

    “My friends and I. We need your assistance.” She leaned toward him, giving him an even clearer view of her creamy cleavage and one rose-tinted areola.

    “That’s—that’s my job, miss.” He sank back into his chair, grateful for the panel at the front that hid his embarrassing erection. “What can I do for you?”

    “Well, let me explain…” She drew even closer, her voice low and conspiratorial, as she laid out her plan. He did his best to pay attention, but his mind and his eyes kept wandering back to her luscious breasts.

    “So, do you think this is possible?” she asked finally, reaching for his trembling hand. “My friends and I would be ever so grateful.”

    “I don’t know—it’s really exceeding my authority…”

    “Your job is to handle special requests from guests, isn’t it?”

    “Yes, of course, but…”

    “Mr. Torelli, my friend’s father, is spending a lot on this wedding. Desert Breeze Resort stands to make a hefty profit. Can’t you just throw this in as an extra benefit?”

    “I’ll have to check with my manager, miss.”

    Somehow the angel had slipped around behind him. Her hands rested lightly upon his shoulders. Her warm breath tickled his earlobe. He smelled coconut oil, sweat, and the delicious perfume of her musk.

    “I’m sure you must have the authority to arrange this,” she murmured, her voice like honey. “Do you really have to ask permission, a strong, dominant guy like you?”

    — Note that even with the third person, the POV is still associated with a single character, in this case the concierge. (Readers will have met the young woman, Laura, in a previous chapter…)

  3. POV is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when planning your book. Although traditionally third person is most popular, many writers find first person works better for some stories.

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