Finding Your Voice: Writing in Third Person
by Elvis Deane
When you start a new story, one of the very first decisions you have to make is from whose perspective you are telling it. Sometimes the choice is obvious. If you’re telling an entire tale from one person’s point-of-view, a first person narrative voice can be an easy choice. However if you’re telling a large story, the ability to step in and out of a character’s perspective is helpful, and in my view, a third person voice lends itself to those types of stories.
When I began writing Pistachio the Tyrant, I was working in animation and hoping to one day write animated feature films. Because the goal of Pistachio the Tyrant was to write something that lent itself to becoming an epic animated film, the third person omniscient narrative voice lent itself well to the story. Third person gives us a little distance from the characters we are following, much in the way we might watch them on screen.
There is something to be said about writing in first person. I’ve written a few short stories from that point-of-view, and I’ve always found it to be very liberating and a speedy way to write, perhaps because it frees you from wanting to describe scenery and the world at large. If third person can be compared to watching a movie scene with a central characters, first person narrative has more in common with acting. It allows the author to become the character. By doing so, you are placing the reader in the character’s shoes and letting them feel the emotion of the situation directly. Third person tends to be a little colder, a step removed from being the person from whose perspective we are watching the story unfold. Switching from character to character within a first-person viewpoint can also be jarring, because the “I” from one chapter is not the “I” in the next chapter, and it takes the audience a few sentences to reacquaint themselves with who is now telling the story.
A major reason that I wrote Pistachio the Tyrant from a third person omniscient viewpoint was that I wanted to give a voice to the villains. It’s easy to look at a character’s actions that are harmful to the protagonist and see them as evil. If we can sympathize with the villains, understand why they are doing the things they are doing by seeing the world from their point-of-view, then we’re forced to question ourselves a little more, and sympathize a little with why they are doing the terrible things they are doing.
In Pistachio, writing in third person omniscient view let me have Vamen question his own decisions, wrestle with the course of actions he was taking. His internal conflict is so central to the story that had I only told the story from Pistachio’s point-of-view, many of the twists in the plot would simply not have worked. Because I was introducing the reader to a whole new world, being able to move from character to character and in different parts of the world lent itself to giving the story an epic feel.
Genre - Children’s Fantasy
Rating – PG
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