Deep Point of View: More on Third Person

Writing by Jeffrey James Pacres

Writing by Jeffrey James Pacres


To recap: As part of the In Your Write Mind Workshop I attended in July at Seton Hill University, I gave an hour-long class on Deep Point of View. I thought I might as well turn the class into a series of blog posts. This is the second one.

You can also check out Deep Point of View: Point of View, an Overview

More on Third Person

Third Person Point of View is the only POV where you can change the level of reader immersion into the character. With First Person, you’re pretty much locked into the POV. It’s that character, what that character thinks and feels, and what that character wants to report to the reader. In Second Person, the reader is also immersed into the character fully, since they more or less become that character. It’s like a video game where you’re interacting with the story as a character.

But with Third Person, since the reader isn’t necessarily sitting in the head or becoming the character, the author has the option of how deep to immerse the reader into the character. Or characters. The author also doesn’t have to stay at any one level of immersion. (In fact, chances are, they won’t).

So what are the levels of immersion? Well, there are different thoughts on that. Here are two of them.

Alicia Rasley, in The Power of Point of View, lists six levels:

  • Camera/objective – This is a view of observation, not interaction. Like a movie.
  • Action – The reader experiences the characters physical actions and reactions.
  • Perception – The reader experiences the actions, reactions, and the perceptions of the character (sees, hears, tastes, physically feels, etc.).
  • Thought – The reader experiences the thoughts of the character (what they’re planning, etc.).
  • Emotion – The reader experiences the emotions of the character. (who they love, what they hate, etc.).
  • Deep immersion/Voice – You get all of the above, plus the narrative takes on the voice of the character.

Orson Scott Card, in Characters & Viewpoint, lists four levels:

  • Omniscient – The reader sees all the characters do and think, but from a single, different, narrator’s perspective (i.e., not from one of the character’s view points)
  • Cinematic – The reader observes the characters, as in a movie (i.e., no narrator interjection or judgement).
  • Limited light penetration – The reader sees into the viewpoint character’s mind, but does not experience the scene as the character, but filtered through a narrator.
  • Limited deep penetration – The reader experiences the scene as the character does.

In addition to the levels of immersion, there are two main… let’s call them types of third person POV. You can see them hinted at in the levels of immersion:

  • Omniscient – Just what it says on the tin. In Omniscient third, the narrator sees and knows all, including the character’s–all of the characters–thoughts and feelings. The trick with Omniscient third is that the narrator is always the same. It’s the voice of a god telling the reader about the story.
  • Limited – Again, pretty much what it says. In this case, the viewpoint is limited to one character. If that character isn’t present in a scene, the reader doesn’t see it. However, you can have more than one limited third point of view in a story. Its just that you can’t jump points of view willy-nilly. Scene breaks are preferable, to let the reader know they’re moving heads now.

So that’s a little more about third person, on our way to examining Deep Point of View. Up next: What Deep POV is, What it isn’t, and Why First isn’t Deep POV.

Categories: Deep POV, Writing

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4 thoughts on “Deep Point of View: More on Third Person

  1. Pingback: Deep Point of View: Point of View, an Overview « Ann Laurel Kopchik

  2. I need to read these like eighty times to let them soak in; such useful information, thank you for sharing it! I look forward to digging through your older posts when I have more time!

  3. Pingback: Deep POV: What it is, What it isn’t, and Why First isn’t Deep POV « Ann Laurel Kopchik

  4. Pingback: Deep POV: How Do You Do It? When Should You Do It? « Ann Laurel Kopchik

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