What are the benefits of writing in the third person point of view? Lately, there has been a bit of a fad for writing novels in the first person perspective.
The first person perspective means the story is told by one character as they go about events that form the story arc. In other words, the pronoun “I” is used.
Using this tactic can be unusual for novels. It can also create a unique experience for the reader. However, take caution when attempting to write in the first person, especially as a new writer.
Note that the majority of writers need help reviewing their English so they can understand first, second, and third person voice in writing.
There are plenty of legitimate uses for writing in the first person point of view, such as blogs. There is also a good reason the vast majority of novels throughout history are written in the third person perspective.
The Benefits of Writing in Third Person
Let’s review some of the reasons why writing in the third person is so appropriate for novel writing.
The primary advantage to writing fiction in the third person (using the pronouns he, she, they, etc.) is it allows the writer to act as an omniscient narrator. Information can be given to the reader about every character and situation, whether or not the individual characters know anything about it.
In fact, you can impart information of which none of the characters are aware.
To provide a reader this type of information when writing in first person, the character acting as narrator must be present at every event and somehow become privy to this knowledge. That can become terribly awkward, and usually precludes ever discussing any other character’s emotional state or inner thoughts. Since most people don’t divulge information freely, it makes it nearly impossible to have the main character gain access to those states of mind.
By having an omniscient narrator, you can skip back and forth between things that are happening now, things that occurred in the past, and even things that will happen in the future.
For example, you might write, “Unbeknownst to Paul, Sarah would be dead in three days.” Being able to write about the past allows you as the writer to divulge all manner of information about the motivations and internal drives of every character in the novel by giving a quick rundown of something that happened to them yesterday, five years ago, or when they were a baby. There are no limitations that would break the boundaries of believability.
Additionally, an omniscient narrator can tell the story from any character’s point of view. Switching back and forth between the characters is possible, although you should never do that within a sentence or change the character point of view too often.
You can create a problem called head hopping because it can quickly become confusing for readers. Your fans will then miss your actual story, or worse, put the book down.
Different Points of View
Be certain not to spread the story too thin by including the point of view of every character. Restrict yourself to the main characters only.
The benefit of telling a story from several main characters’ point of view is the ability to divulge each character’s emotional state, thoughts, and beliefs.
Telling the story from multiple points of view also allows for much better character development. It is a tricky element to fiction writing. In fact, often one of the key differences between a so-so book and a great one is creating characters who are believable and have many dimensions to them, just like real people.
Humans are complex, and unfortunately, many fictional characters are not. A primary goal in writing is to engage your reader. One of the best ways to engage readers is for them to be able to imagine themselves in the shoes of your characters.
Ideally, a reader should be able to imagine themselves as more than one of your characters if you want the most compelling novel possible. The third person narrative allows for more than one character to have realism and depth. The first person perspective gets almost impossibly tricky in this sense.
Finally, just because you have an omniscient narrator doesn’t mean all the secrets must be divulged or clues given to prematurely reveal a particularly shocking climax. It also does not preclude using the first person within the novel. Dialogue is of course always in first person.
In other words, the third person point of view is attractive for fiction because of its tremendous flexibility. It allows writers to tell a story in a nearly infinite number of ways, and most writers want to tell a unique story in a unique way, after all.
Originally posted 11/27/2015 and happily updated 11/15/2017. Thanks for reading!