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Speech, tenses & voices

Note 253 – Four types of third-person point of view (POV) in writing


When a work colleague asked me if I had blogged about the difference between third person closed and third person unlimited (omniscient), I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about.  My first reaction was to look up the word omniscient itself which I now know means “all knowing”.  This inspired me to write Note 251 The prefix omni and related words a couple of days ago. 

Since then a few other writers have left some very useful comments on this post which helped me put the phrase ‘omniscient point of view (POV)’ into context.  I’ve also googled it and About.com Grammar & Composition says that there are three main types of third-person points of view which are omniscient, closed and objective as described below; however Wikipedia also mentions subjective so I’ve added that as well:

  1. Third person omniscient (or unlimited) – About.com explains that “an all-knowing narrator not only reports the facts but may also interpret events and relate the thoughts and feelings of any character”.
  2. Third person closed (or limited) – A member on the Absolutewrite.com forum says that for third person limited “the story is told from the point of view of ONE character. It has nothing to do with the number of characters. There can be thirty characters – but we only know the direct thoughts of one of them”.  About.com Grammar & Composition also says that the narrator is giving a report of events “from the perspective of a single character”.
  3. Third person objective – The narrator in a third-person objective piece is completely neutral and relays no feelings of his/her own.
  4. Third person subjective – According to Wikipedia “a narrator staying on the subjective end of this spectrum tells the story exclusively from the perspective(s) of the character(s) and cannot relate any of the exterior objective world”.

That’s all for today.  Hope you enjoyed today’s post.

Until tomorrow…

Sandra
Freelance Writer
www.sandramadeira.com

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About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Please let me know what you think of my blog - constructive comments welcome. Have a great day Sandra Freelance Writer www.sandramadeira.com

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Note 253 – Four types of third-person point of view (POV) in writing

  1. Sandra,
    Good points.

    I just wanted to add that J.D. Salinger wrote a powerful story in his “Franny and Zooey” book. In the Franny part, she gets alone in the bathroom and has a cry. She’s going through an emotional crisis. Everything is objective viewpoint through the eyes and ears and feelings of Franny, almost pure “show and not tell.”

    I think this particular viewpoint is quite challenging but when pulled off successfully can engage the reader thoroughly. The reader is constantly struggling a bit (some detective work) to figure out what is going on inside Franny. Years later, I can still picture Franny in my mind and the depth of her grief and confusion, which her genius brother Zooey drops by to try to alleviate.

    To me, this Salinger story (or set of stories) is much more captivating than the often lauded “The Catcher in the Rye.”

    Posted by Bill | January 8, 2012, 11:46 pm
  2. I’ve always tended to write in 3rd person objective(or omniscient), but a couple of times I’ve been asked who the narrator is…..I’m like, hmmmmm, don’t ask me lol ;)

    So now I tend to write 3rd person closed and/or subjective, and try to add internal dialogue.

    I dunno, sometimes, I think, the more I’m learning, the less likely I am to pick a pen up! ;) I seem to flit between all four of the types you’ve listed (hopefully, not within the same story unintentionally).

    I wish I’d concentrated more at school ;)

    Xx

    Posted by Vikki | January 9, 2012, 7:27 am
    • Hi Vikki – same here, I feel like I’m learning a lot of these writing rules for the first time! I also think anyone even attempting to write fiction whether it’s a novel or a short story is brilliant. I tend to write mostly non-fiction as I find that easier, but of course there are so many rules around that too. :-)

      Posted by Sandra Madeira | January 9, 2012, 1:30 pm

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