Third Person Limited (and More)

There are three main types of third person point of view in literature: third person limited, third person omniscient, and third person objective. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Here's the run-down and some examples.

Kat Brzozowski, Swoon Reads, Writing for
4-minute read
Episode #526

There are a few key decisions that a writer has to make early in the writing process. Where is your book going to be set? Who will the protagonist be? What is the central conflict?

Before any of these decisions can be made, however, you first have to decide what point of view (or POV) will best serve your manuscript. You probably know the difference between the first person POV, where the story is narrated by the protagonist using the pronoun I, and the third person POV, which is narrated with pronouns such as he and she.

What you may not know is that even once you’ve chosen the third person POV, there are various types of third person POV that you can use, and these different styles can change the tone and scope of your manuscript.

Today, we’ll talk about three of the most common types of third person POV.

Third Person Limited

Third person limited, also known as third person close, tells us the story using pronouns such as he and she but only gives us access to what the protagonist thinks and feels, and we cannot know more than the protagonist knows. 

In third person limited, the reader can't know more than the protagonist knows.

For example, in a third person limited POV, we can know that our protagonist John loves waffles and has a crush on his colleague Brenda, but we cannot know that Brenda prefers pancakes and has barely noticed her colleague John. Since we don’t have access to Brenda’s head, our knowledge is limited to what’s in John’s head. Writers often choose this POV because it allows them to dive into the head of their protagonist and give us full access to the protagonist’s motivations and emotions.


About the Author

Kat Brzozowski, Swoon Reads, Writing for Grammar Girl

Kat Brzozowski is a senior editor at Swoon Reads and Feiwel and Friends. Originally from New Hampshire, she now lives in New Jersey, where she spends her time between eating dumplings, watching “Survivor,” and doing embroidery, sometimes all at the same time.

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