What is a “Third Person Point of View”?


“POV” is short for point of view, meaning the point of view through which we’re seeing a piece of writing. The different types are first person, second person, third limited, and third omniscient.

In first person POV, the reader sees through the eyes of the character. In second, the reader becomes the character or the object being addressed. In third limited, the reader is told the story by a separate narrator.

In third omniscient, an all-knowing narrator tells the story.

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What is third person omniscient?

Third person omniscient is the point of view where the narrator knows everything. They can know any character’s thoughts, see into any scene, and know things of the past, present, and future of the story.

Third omniscient uses the pronouns “he/she/they.”

Third person limited POV

Third person limited uses “he/she/they” just like third omniscient, but it’s limited to one character’s perspective.

The point-of-view may hop between a few characters, but there is a scene break or chapter change first. While in a character’s perspective, the reader only sees what the character sees, observes what they observe, and knows what they know.

Third person omniscient examples

Third person omniscient is often obvious at the beginning of a novel, by the narrator directly addressing the reader in a story-teller voice and breaking the fourth wall.

Think of the opening line of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events:

“If you are interested in stories with a happy ending, then you are better off reading another book.”

Or the first line of The Book of The King by Jerry. B Jenkins:

“To tell the story of Owen Reeder–the whole story and not just the parts that tickle the mind and make you laugh from the belly like one who has had too much to drink–we have to go into much unpleasantness.”

Popular novels written in third omniscient point of view include Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

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How to write third person omniscient

Third person omniscient has fallen from popular use in modern writing. You’ll see it nearly exclusively in classic novels (such as Little Women and Pride and Prejudice), but modern readers have trended toward novels that put them in the character’s shoes.

While it isn’t as popular as it once was, there are still a few situations in which third person omniscient POV might work.

Third omniscient is a good POV to use if you’re introducing a large cast of characters. It allows you to delve into each character’s mind without limitations, relate them to each other, and develop them without being held back by a single character’s perspective.

An omniscient perspective can also be used for style. Writers like Jane Austen and Jerry B. Jenkins use third omniscient for humor, complex storytelling, and unique voice, in addition to omniscient’s benefit of all-knowing narration.

Be cautious, because third omniscient does put a barrier between your reader and your characters. That barrier can help or hurt your story, depending on what you’re trying to do.

If you want your reader to feel what your character is feeling, third omniscient is likely keeping your reader too far away to empathize fully.

If you want to keep your reader further away from the character, third omniscient makes that easy to accomplish. In the examples above from A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Book of The King, those stories involve children in danger, being abused and neglected, and sometimes dying. Since both series are intended for children and teens, the far-off narration makes it more age-appropriate. It reminds the reader that this is just a story, so the heavy content becomes lighter.

Third person omniscient point-of-view is a tricky POV to use, even for experienced writers, so proceed with caution.

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Hannah Lee Kidder

Hannah Lee Kidder is a contemporary and fantasy author, writing coach, and YouTuber. She has published two bestselling short story collections, Little Birds and Starlight. Hannah is currently minding her own business, streaming a variety of writing and life content on Twitch, somewhere in the Colorado mountains with her roommate, Saya, who is a dog.

https://www.facebook.com/HannahLeeKidder

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