What is third person limited point of view? Third person limited point of view is an important perspective for writers and readers – but what is it? And how is it used? We’re going to answer those questions by defining third person limited point of view. We’re also going to explore third person limited examples! By the end, you’ll know what third person limited point of view is and how to use it in writing.
Third Person Limited Meaning
What does third person limited mean?
The third person limited point of view is just one type of point of view – there are tons more. So, what is point of view? Well, quite literally, point of view is the perspective through which a story is told.
First person point of view is when the narrator is directly telling the story, e.g., “I went to the store today.”
Second person point of view is when the reader is put into the shoes of the narrator, e.g., “You went to the store today.”
Third person point of view is when the narrator is an outside observer, e.g., “They went to the store today.”
For more on third person point of view, check out this lecture from author Brandon Sanderson.
Sanderson breaks down a variety of third person point of view distinctions, particularly regarding limited and third person omniscient perspectives. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s first break down the third person limited definition.
THIRD PERSON LIMITED DEFINITION
What is third person limited point of view?
Third person limited point of view is a third-person literary perspective that offers limited insight into one or more character’s minds. Third person limited POV is used to distance the reader from the characters; it often reflects the “real-world” nature of regaling stories.
Third Person Limited Definition vs Third Person Omniscient Definition
Third person limited vs omniscient
Third person point of view is separated into two major types: limited and omniscient. So, what’s the difference between third person limited point of view and third person omniscient point of view?
Well, in third person limited point of view, the narrator’s knowledge is limited.
Conversely, in third person omniscient point of view, the narrator’s knowledge is limitless.
Omniscience simply translates from the Latin omni, meaning “all,” and sciens, meaning “knowing,” as “all-knowing.”
3rd Person Limited Point of View Writing Guide
How to write in third person limited POV
Third person limited is the perfect perspective to use if you want to build distance between reader and characters (while still maintaining a natural sense of mystery). This video from Reedsy breaks down a variety of strategies writers can use to master the third person limited POV.
It’s certainly true that third person limited point of view can be used to bring the reader into the mind of a character. Many famous book series, such as Harry Potter, use 3rd person limited point of view to bring us into the mind of an eponymous character so that we discover the world along with them.
Here’s an example from Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets:
“Harry had never been inside Filch's office before; it was a place most students avoided. The room was dingy and windowless, lit by a single oil lamp dangling from the low ceiling. A faint smell of fried fish lingered about the place. Wooden filing cabinets stood around the walls; from their labels, Harry could see that they contained details of every pupil Filch had ever punished. Fred and George Weasley had an entire drawer to themselves. A highly polished collection of chains and manacles hung on the wall behind Filch's desk. It was common knowledge that he was always begging Dumbledore to let him suspend students by their ankles from the ceiling.”
It’s important to note that many third person limited point of view stories, Harry Potter included, fall victim to omniscient narration. Heck, this chapter even includes omniscient information. Additionally, writers working in third person sometimes jump from individual perspective to individual perspective; this technique is known as “head jumping.”
My personal feeling is that writing from the third person limited point of view is exhausting; restricting yourself (as the narrator) to the mind of a single character can sometimes feel like an exercise in insanity. As such, many “third person limited books” veer into omniscience and head jumping.
What is Third Person Omniscient POV?
Third person limited point of view is just one narrative perspective. Want to learn more? Check out our next article where we break down a similar perspective subtype that sees and knows all. In this post, we'll explain how it works and provide some examples of how writers work with omniscience.