I have discussed first and second person during the last two weeks, this week I want to talk about third person. Remember, the viewpoint you use will either bring your readers closer or take them further away from your story. First and second, for example, are closer than third person – attached or omniscient – or a narrator.
He didn’t know what to do. He held on as tight as he could. His fingers were aching, a numbness spread, his arms began to cramp. Below him. Feet, thousands of feet. A gaping chasm of nothingness. He stretched his toes and felt nothing. No ledge. No foothold. His calf burned from the strain. It hurt. His fist was stuck, the crevice was small, just enough to lock his hand in. His knuckles were raw. He had to get up, he had to pull, once more. He made it onto the ledge. He flipped onto his stomach and looked down, trying to see where she had landed.
- You can use multiple viewpoint characters to tell your story. All types of third person viewpoint can be used for more than one character, but be careful. The golden rule is to stick to one character per scene. Do not head-hop.
- Your characters must be distinct. If they all sound the same, I won’t believe your story. Your characters will be dull and flat.
- Do not choose too many viewpoint characters. The fewer viewpoint characters you have, the stronger your story will be. There are, of course exceptions, but as a beginner, I’d encourage you not to use more than three.
- Try not to make every character a viewpoint character. It is annoying getting to know a character in a scene and then never seeing or hearing from them again. Viewpoint characters should make frequent long appearances in books.
- You’ll know which viewpoint character to use for which scene by establishing which character experiences the biggest emotional change. This should be the viewpoint character.
- Make sure your character doesn’t have information they shouldn’t have. How does your character know the secret for example? Just because the narrator knows and the reader knows it doesn’t necessarily put your character in a place where they will know. Consider an affair. If the ‘cheater’ is a viewpoint character, the reader will be aware of the subterfuge, but the spouse can still be blissfully ignorant. How will they find out?
Have fun with your viewpoint. Challenge yourself; we tend fall into ruts because we repeat the same thing. Changing viewpoint is a great way to spice things up.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they sure made a great baby. But as Alison Peters would soon learn, raising a baby right costs money and when Mister Wrong is your only support you’re in for a tough ride. But Alison wasn’t going to risk her baby on a bad decision. She’d do anything to save her little one. Anything.
Alison slammed down the phone. It was hopeless.“Bloody bastard.” She muttered, sinking into the hard back chair.“What did he say?”“Not now, Mom.” She sunk her head into her hands and tried to breathe.“Well then, when?” Her mother loomed in the kitchen doorway, hands on her hips.“Mom, please.” She bit back tears. The rent was due. She needed to buy diapers. How did he think she would be able to raise his child if he didn’t contribute? Babies cost money. Much more than the cheap drinks that got her into this trouble.
I sink into the chair. This is bad.“What’d he say?”“Not now Mom.” I need that money. His money. For his child.“Well then when, Alison?”“How should I know, Mom?”“Yes, how should you know? How you are going to support a child? You can’t even support yourself.”“Mom, please. I can’t do this now.” I hate that I am pleading.“Well, you did this. You made this baby. You chose that loser.”
You slam down the phone. You try to calm your breathing. You need to make a plan. You cannot live like this.“What’d he say?”“Not now, Mom.” You can’t do this. You run your thumbnail along the ridge in the table.You need help. You need money. You need to raise your child. His child. If only you knew what a few cheap drinks would end up costing you.