Character & POV
3 min read

A short guide to third person limited point of view

An illustration of a woman running shown from a third person limited point of view.

What if you could hover over your character's shoulder, privy to their thoughts, emotions, and experiences, but only theirs? Sounds intriguing, right? Welcome to third-person limited point of view.

In third-person limited, the narrator tells the story from one character's perspective at a time. It's like having a spotlight that follows a character around, illuminating their thoughts, emotions, and perceptions, while leaving other characters in the shadows.

The charm of third person limited

This POV can offer readers the best of both worlds: the intimate connection of first person and the outside perspective of third person. Readers can get to know a character deeply while still maintaining some distance.

Third-person limited can also enhance suspense and tension. Limiting the information to one character's knowledge keeps the reader guessing what's happening with the rest of the cast. Remember Harry's first encounter with Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone? You were just as clueless and scared as he was – that's the power of third-person limited!

Challenges of third-person limited

However, this POV does come with its challenges. Since you're tied to one character at a time, the story can become skewed by their perceptions and biases. It's like trying to understand a party by following one guest – you might miss out on the full picture.

Another challenge is the potential for confusion when switching from one character's perspective to another's. Without careful handling, you might leave your reader feeling disoriented.

💡 Read our tips for choosing the right point of view for your novel.

Tips for writing in the third person limited

  1. Stay consistent: If you've chosen to tell the story from one character's perspective, stick to it. Don't suddenly switch to another character's viewpoint in the same scene.
  2. Character development is key: Spend time developing your focal character(s). The reader is going to spend a lot of time with them.
  3. Make perspective shifts clear: If you switch perspectives between scenes or chapters, make it clear whose perspective we're in now.

Limited in perspective, unlimited in storytelling

Third-person limited point of view may focus on one character at a time, but the storytelling potential is boundless. It's like looking at a landscape through a telescope – the view might be narrow, but what you see can be extraordinarily detailed.