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  1. Carl Montgomery

    Carl Montgomery New Member

    Mar 30, 2014
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    Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    Voice in Third Person Limited

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Carl Montgomery, Apr 1, 2014.


    I know this may have been asked before, but I don't think I've found an answer. If you write a story from the 3rd person limited perspective (in my case with multiple POV), does that mean the voice of your narrator needs to be the voice of character you are focusing on? Meaning that not only should we only stick to revealing what that character knows, but we should also only write as they talk? For instance, if I am in the point of view of a younger character, of course I wouldn't use large words in the dialogue, but should I also not use it in the meat of the writing? And then you can also forget about figurative language in the point of view of less educated characters. Do you see what I mean? Or is the key to just be consistent and if I give them a voice, stick to it? I suppose it depends on how far you want to take it. I've found some forum discussions on other sites with varying opinions, from some saying that it is absolutely necessary to stick to that voice to others say it doesn't really matter. What do you think?

  2. AndyC

    AndyC Member

    Mar 18, 2014
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    In the third person limited perspective the narrator knows only the thoughts and feelings of one specific character, and presents the other character's only externally. It's kind of a middle point between first person narrative and third person omniscient.

    The voice of the narrator and the voice of the main character don't have to be necessarily the same, although they can. On first person perspective you have a narrator built on a character, which is the one telling the story. But on a third person perspective you can have the narrator (the one who tells the story) to be one, and the main character (the one from which the reader experience the story firsthand) to be other.

    Personally I believe you should always stick to a character's voice, regardless of which type of narration you choose. Every character, or at least the primal ones, should have a "unique voice".

    I don't know if I made some sense here :p I hope this helped
  3. jazzabel

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 5, 2012
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    It's impossible to maintain the dialogue voice in narration for multiple characters. What you should focus on is presenting their personality, their thoughts, feelings, reactions, that would be recognisable as uniquely their own. By doing this, you'll already distinguish them from narrating any other character. You can also include expression peculiarities but don't overdo it. Don't narrate a teenager avoiding 'big words', that tends to come across as too limiting. They have thoughts and feeling just like adults, and you as a writer are describing those feelings for the reader. This is where third person limited is always a bit more removed than first person pov. Although, even with first person pov, their internal monologue will be richer and better spoken than the dialogue. It's the nature of speech and thought. Even people with quite limited speech are capable of having profound thoughts and feelings.
    plothog likes this.
  4. Burlbird

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Dec 29, 2011
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    Somewhere Else
    You can do this, of course - but that has nothing to do with the "3rd person limited" narrator. In a way, you don't realize it, but you are mixing the narrative mood (whose point of view the narration takes) with the narrative voice ("who" the narrator is). The choice of how different the voice is from the mood, and whether it's going to be a static or a dynamic relationship is totaly up to the author. Frankly, anyone who claims there is only one way to do something needs to read more books :D

    The "limited" narrator is focused on a character (who is called a "focal character") - he sits, so to speak, on a character's shoulder, repeating what the character sees, feels, thinks, does. As someone who is so close to a character, the narrator can share manerism with the character, or start to talk and think like him, crossing the boundaries - it's called "transfer" in psychoanalysis. A more subtle approach would be to modify the syntax to fit the speed, mood, internal conflicts etc of the focal character. Again, this can be done, but is not in any way a neccessary part of "3rd pers. lim." type of narration.

    Here's a nice article on the subject (maybe too academic?) www.amerikanistik.uni-bayreuth.de/de/teaching/Projekte/Melville/Concepts/Narrator/index.html[/i]
    jazzabel likes this.
  5. Bryan Romer

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 26, 2014
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    As the others have pointed out, you are not restricted only to what you character would say. However, subtle differences in vocabulary and choice of words can be used to strengthen the reader's impression of the character. Just don't treat it as a restraint or limit to what the POV narrator can say.
  6. AlannaHart

    AlannaHart Contributing Member

    Jan 18, 2014
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    Unless the narration is coming from I as in first person, it is not the first person's voice. If you are describing what he or she does/thinks/feels, use whatever language you want because it has nothing to do with them. You don't pretend to be your friend when you tell a story about them. You don't limit yourself to your friend's narrative voice.

    Like it was said above, third person limited is like sitting on the one character's shoulder. But it's not like sitting in their brain.
    jazzabel likes this.
  7. Renee J

    Renee J Contributing Member

    Oct 7, 2013
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    Reston, VA
    Could you still have character reactions as thoughts in third person limited or would that be another form of third person? For example, after another character says something outlandish, the POV character thinks something like:

    Why would she say that?​

    Would I need to change it to?:

    Why would she say that? he thought.​

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