Points of view for writers – third person locked

When it comes to writing fiction, the ‘point of view’ an author chooses counts for a great deal.

Wright_Books2Differing points of view have differing strengths for differing purposes. Today I’m looking at the locked third person. This is almost the same as first person singular, in that the entire story is told from the narrative viewpoint of a single character. All the reader knows is what that character sees.

But there is a key difference. With first person singular, it’s possible to inject a distinctive voice, the one the character uses for their stream of thought. Third person locked offers less opportunity to do that – the ‘voice’, instead, is more abstracted from the character.

The disadvantage of this, compared to first person, is that a first-person POV can be used to create a very distinctive voice and styling. It’s harder with third-person POV. However, the advantage is that the author can allow their own voice to flow around the character – often more lyrically than the character’s own voice would permit. This makes dialogue – which will be written in the character’s classic voicing – stand out far better. Like this:

Sam Shovel stepped into the dark alley and felt the rain trickling down the back of his neck, wrinkling his nose at the stench of half-rotted garbage.  A cat howled and scrabbled to get away. And there – there, in the half-dark beyond that crate, bizarrely lit in a splash of light from a fourth-storey window, was a shoe. A woman’s shoe, high-heeled, polished. He stepped forward. The shoe was attached to a leg; and then he saw the body, spread-eagled and face down. ‘Hey, Luigi,’ he called. ‘You know you got some dead dame in your alley?’”

The ability to differentiate the written styling from the ‘voice’ of the character makes third-person locked a better choice when it comes to creating a specific writing style. There are still limits, of course. Nothing can be revealed that the third-person character wouldn’t see. And the onus is still on to describe everything not as if a camera were seeing it – but in terms of how the character reacts to what they see. Deep point of view, it’s called.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015