May 17 – Limits: Third Person – Limited

The Prompt

Write A Story In The Third Person, Limited


We’re writing in a much more conventional fashion today, good old third person, limited.

The Prompt

Write A Story In The Third Person, Limited 


  • Let the reader hear the thoughts of one person, and one person only. The narrator and the protagonist can infer information about other people’s thoughts, but the reader can never see inside those other characters’ minds. If this was a movie, the camera would swing around the protagonist, occasionally looking over her shoulder and through her eyes, never getting too far away from her.
  • This is the voice often used in detective stories, and mainstream fiction.
  • You don’t have to say ‘he thought’, to let us know what the character is thinking. In this POV if you make a declarative statement, it’s going to be clear that the ‘thought’ belongs to your POV character. For example: “The wind was picking up. Her hair whipped around her face, defying the extra-hold hairspray she’d used. Bob was going to wonder if she’d forgotten where she kept her hairbrush.” It’s clear the last sentence is the protagonist’s direct thought, right?
  • The advantage of this POV is that it keeps the reader close to the protagonist, emotionally. It also helps you set up suspense, since the reader can only know what the protagonist knows.
  • The disadvantage of this POV is that readers can’t see what’s happening ‘off-stage’ unless you use another device to reveal that information (like the way Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak allows us to eavesdrop on important scenes even when Harry’s not supposed to be there; or the way Isaac Asimov’s excerpts from The Encyclopedia Galactica fill us in on the politics, decisions and passage of time in the Foundation series).
  • Keep readers interested in your protagonist by giving them a desire, and an obstacle to overcome. A flaw and a special talent can help too. (Indiana Jones is a great example here: He always wants to save the priceless artifact for posterity, and he’s usually opposed by someone else who wants the same thing, but who has and Evil Purpose in mind. He’s a talented archaeologist, but he has a soft heart and a problem walking away from bullies, both of which get him into all kinds of trouble.)


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3 thoughts on “May 17 – Limits: Third Person – Limited”

    1. Wow Martin! Very compelling, and you’re right, cliff hanger city! I hope the next one will allow closure on this 🙂 Very well done!

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