Writing in the third person

by Michelle
(Bakersfield, CA)

Question: I just read where someone, like myself is writing in the third person. I'm basically doing to the very same thing, although my characters frequently have conversations.

How specifically can I make the switch to first or second person without sounding like I'm narrating the story?

Answer: When the narrator refers to him/herself as "I," that is first person narration. You have a fictional character addressing the reader. (If you, the writer, are telling the story, then it's not fiction but nonfiction or autobiography.)

Now, there are plenty of novels where the narrator begins talking about himself in first person, but then starts to tell the reader a story of something that happened in the past. From then on, the story is mostly third person narration. Some classic examples would be Moby Dick or Wuthering Heights.

In these stories, the character narrator will use "I" when referring to himself and his role in the past events, and use "he" or "she" when referring to what other people did.

Of course, the downside of this style of narration is that you generally know the narrator survived the events of the story (how else could he be alive to tell it?).

Sometimes, however, the character narrator will tell a story based on what he has learned through research, rumours, or interviews. (An example would be Lemony Snicket of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The advantage here is that it raises the possibility that the narrator has misinterpreted events or has incomplete knowledge.

If you don't want to have a character narrator, don't use first or second person. Stick to third person. There's no way around it.

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