Tips for Writing Articles in the 3rd Person

by Firefalls on April 19, 2011

Writing in the third person involves writing as if you are the narrating a story. Which is why it’s referred to as the Narrative form. People in your story (or article) are referred to as he or she (or plural they) (or their actual name). “John went to the store while Mary stayed home with baby Emma. ”

Before I get to how to write in 3rd person let me take a step back and explain what is not the narrative form of writing.

First person perspective is writing events as if you’re seeing them with your own eyes. It’s written in the “I” point of view. So a typical sentence may go like this: “I stepped out of my car, ascended the stairs and knocked on the door. Mary opened the door with a certain shocked look on her face as I entered her living room.”

Then there is writing in the second person. Second person perspective is written to “you“. This is probably the way most articles are written. “If you are looking to learn how to make sushi blindfolded, buy this book right now”

Let’s head back to third person. The beauty of third person perspective is that you are acting as narrator, you are not exactly in the story. As narrator you can give the events of a story any slant you want, you set the tone, the mood. You can speak about someone’s thoughts that are completely unknown to the person sitting right next to your character. These thoughts can be light-hearted or sinister, it’s all up to the narrator.

Here’s a few tips to consider to help keep you on the third person path:

1. Limited or Omniscient
Decide whether you want to tell the story from one character’s point of view (Limited) or all characters points of view(Omniscient). If you choose one character, (Think Bella from Twilight) your readers will never know what the Cullens are up to when Bella is not around (unless she hears about it), whereas if your going to narrate all characters you transition from one character to the next to move the plot of your story. (Think movies that jump from scene to scene, each with different sets of characters, think Star Wars, one scene Luke is with Yoda the next Han Solo is flying through an asteroid field)

This is something you should decide early on so you can stick to the plan for the entire novel.

2. Objective?
Next we need to decide whether we want to narrate only the actions of our character or all the thoughts and actions of our character. The third person objective doesn’t narrate any of the characters feelings or thoughts, it just objectively accounts for the characters actions.

Again, the earlier you know this, the easier it will be to get it the mindset of the narrator.

3. The voice of your character (or characters)
This is where the third person perspective becomes really fun. You get to choose the voice of your character. You decide whether your character is a raging lunatic or a mild-mannered introvert, or a combination like Walter Mitty. I like to think about who I want my characters to be like (say someone from history or currently in the spotlight) and model that person in your character (or your character can be made up of a group of people each making up a part of your characters personally or physical make-up).

The sky is the limit when it comes to your characters make-up and you can have a lot of fun with it.

I laid out three tips for writing in third person, but really these are just considerations you need to make regarding your characters and story. The real tip comes in making sure you think about all three of these items before you get too involved with your story. The faster you nail down the method you will be using the less of a chance that you will break your own rules and the faster you can get to writing.

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