Writing Exercise – Point of View: Third Person
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.