Writing Children's Books in 3rd Person Omniscient Vs. Limited

On the other hand, modern fiction prefers a narrator who understands how to connect the reader to the characters. That is why the limited third person is becoming more popular.

Limited third person

The author uses a limited third-person narrator to tell the story from the close-up perspective of one character (at a time) to create the immediacy and intimacy of a first-person narrative without being "trapped" in the head of a protagonist.

By selecting this option, the author only tells what the character with the point of view knows, feels, perceives, thinks, hopes remembers... Only from what this character observes about other people's behavior can the reader deduce what they feel and think.

What are the benefits?

  • Create greater intimacy between the reader and the characters;
  • You can maintain a level of uncertainty about secondary characters: their emotions, their secrets, and their pasts can remain ambiguous.
  • It allows you to evolve the reader's perception of characters and situations.

Why choose the limited third person over the first person?

The limited third person, like first-person storytelling, gives the reader access to a character's inner thoughts and emotions. The distinction is that there is a critical distance between the protagonist and the narrator, which affects how the main character is portrayed. Perhaps the protagonist has a bad habit that he would not have immediately revealed if the narrative were entirely in his hands. Maybe the narrator can "see" something happening behind the protagonist that the character isn't aware of.

While the first-person narrative mode can provide greater emotional immediacy than other modes, it also limits what the reader knows to what the protagonist knows, for better or worse.

Writing Tips

1. Don't filter the action

Because your narrator is so close to your character, you may contextualize all observations and actions through the latter awareness.

"Turning the corner, he noticed two children fighting in the dust," for example.

For example, "He turned the corner: two children were fighting in the dust..."

The second version is more immediate and has not been filtered through the character's eyes but remains tied to his point of view.

Although no rule is absolute, it is necessary to suppress almost every occurrence of phrases such as "has noticed" and "has seen" in favor of direct presentation to achieve vividness.

2. Beware of the POV jump

When you limit the narrator's point of view by focusing on a specific character's thoughts, feelings, and experiences, you may be tempted to reveal the thoughts or feelings of another character.

Here's an illustration: We are in the POV of a detective speaking to a witness when the author writes the following sentence:

Mrs. Smith was reluctant to tell him the truth.

This sentence is an intrusion into Mrs. Smith's mind when presented alone. How does the protagonist - and thus the narrator, who is limited to his point of view - know about that character's reluctance?

Suppose the sentence isn't preceded by a description of Mrs. Smith's ambiguous attitude, agitation, evasive gestures, and broken sentences. In that case, her reluctance becomes a leap into the character's POV that the detective wouldn't be able to detect.

The shift in POV is ugly when it occurs with omniscient storytellers. Still, it is disastrous when narrating in limited third person, as it severely breaks the bond you have worked so hard to establish between character and reader.

It is, therefore, essential to pay attention to it when rewriting!

3. Watch out for flashbacks

Personal memories or historical events in your character's world can be relevant, and limited storytelling is an excellent way to reveal some of the backgrounds to your readers. However, be aware that these flashbacks can halt plot development and sometimes hurt the pace of your book. On the other hand, a few lines of dialogue can sometimes be enough to convey a character's story.

Consider whether the flashbacks advance the current story. If not, leave them out of your story.

More than a limited third-person POV

Of course, you can write your own novel from multiple characters' perspectives. It is pretty common, as Martin does in "A Song of Ice and Fire, "where each chapter focuses on a different character.

A "third multiple" is a point of view in which the narrator sees the minds of some but not all of the characters.

Using multiple characters' perspectives can bring many benefits to the story: for example, if you're writing a thriller, you could use the POVs of the police officer investigating the crime, a victim's family member, and even the criminal himself. However, using the perspectives of three investigators might be less interesting because they are too similar.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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