Perspective Series: #6 Third-person limited narration

Perspective Series: #6 Third-person limited narration

In this series focusing on the figure of the author and the narrator, we have dealt with first-person and second-person narration.
Now we continue our Perspective Series by talking about third-person narration. There are two types, and here we start with the first: third-person limited narration.

What is the third-person limited narration?

Third-person limited narration occurs when the third-person narrator limits the actions and thoughts to that one character.

In this case, therefore, the protagonist can not tell the other characters’ points of view or thoughts because they only know their own.

One of the best examples of writing with third-person limited narration is the Harry Potter books by J.K.Rowling. Rowling uses Harry Potter as a ‘limited‘ narrator character. Below is an example:

Fascinated, Harry leafed through the rest of the contents of the envelope. Why the hell did Filch want a Kwikspell course? Did that mean he wasn’t a real wizard?”
What do we learn from reading these lines?
We know the events Harry Potter is facing, what is happening. Nevertheless, we have no idea what the feelings of the other protagonists or, specifically, Filch are.

Third-person limited narration (subjective point of view)

This narrative structure is most similar to first-person narration. The protagonist tells the facts exclusively from his point of view. The difference with first-person narration is that the narrator tells the events in the third person.

Third-person limited narration (objective point of view)

The characteristic of this particular perspective is objectivity. The protagonist narrates the story’s events exactly as he perceives them through his senses. Therefore, the narrator leaves out the thoughts and feelings in the narration.

Third-person limited narration: characteristics and risks

What, then, are the characteristics of third-person limited narration?

  • It creates a strong intimacy between the narrating character and the reader. It excludes the intrusion of other characters.
  • The secondary characters are more mysterious. They therefore capture the reader’s attention more since they do not know much about them.

This technique is very effective, but you have to know how to use it correctly and avoid certain risks.

Firstly, avoid too many changes of perspective. Within the same chapter or scene, be careful not to tell events from the point of view of one protagonist and then switch to another without explaining anything. The reader would find himself disoriented.
To avoid this disorientation, you can adopt some formatting tricks. For example, separating the two narratives of the two different ‘limited’ characters with a line spacing.

The third-person limited narration is the one that most closely reflects reality. On the other hand, none of us can know what the other characters are thinking during events. Be careful, however, to use appropriate language respecting the era, the society, the age of the characters and their cultural level.

Finally, do not forget that the character is the narrator and not the author. In the description of places, limit yourself to what the character sees and smells without adding anything else that the narrator would not see or hear with their senses.

“Robert Jordan trusted the man, Anselm So far, in everything but judgement, he had not yet had the opportunity to test his judgement and, in any case, judgement was his responsibility. “

For whom the Bells Tolls – Ernest Hemingway

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Perspective Series #6: Third-person limited narration- bibisco main characters' section - bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
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Third-person narration is one of the most widely used and engaging narration techniques. It creates a strong bond between the character and the reader and keeps around the other characters, and the story in general, an aura of mystery that captures the reader’s attention.

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