National Novel Writing Month: How to Start a Novel in Third Person

November is National Novel Writing Month. Between November 1-30, “NaNoWriMo” will encourage aspiring novelists from around the world to share their stories; In 2016 alone, 384,126 participants completed novel-writing projects of 50,000 words or more. Hundreds of books have been published that were written during National Novel Writing Month, including the bestselling titles Water for Elephants (2006), The Night Circus (2011), and The Darwin Elevator (2013). With fun and inspirational challenges, writers forums, and a supportive community, NaNoWriMo wants you to get writing too!


One of the first and most important choices you will make when starting your novel is your perspective.  First Person novels, like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, are limited to the viewpoint of the narrator, who speaks directly to the reader. Second Person uses the “you” pronoun to place the reader within the story, like in a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The Third Person perspective is flexible and is the most common point of view used by authors; Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, George Orwell’s 1984, and George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones are all written in the Third Person. Third Person stories allow the author to explore the thoughts and experiences of multiple characters and to describe the actions and scenery in the world of the novel.   

Ready to write your novel? Here are some of NYXT’s best tips to get started:


Limited, Multiple, or Omniscient?

Once you’ve decided the Third Person is the best way to tell your story, narrow your perspective down a bit further. Limiting your point of view to the thoughts and experiences of a single character or remarking, as an all-knowing narrator, on the world of the book can change the way a reader interacts with the story. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Limited Perspective: This style of narration confines the novel to the knowledge and experiences of a single character, usually the protagonist. The reader gets to experience the world through their eyes.
  • Multiple Perspective: The narration is still limited to the emotions and insights of characters within the story, but can switch between individuals for a broader perspective.
  • Omniscient Perspective: A god-like, all-seeing narrator can comment on the motivations and feelings of all characters, and can provide insights and commentary on the world of the book because of their knowledge.


Understand your narrator

The narrator is the persona you, the author, adopt within the pages of a Third Person novel. The narrator drives the story forward, directs the viewer’s attention, and provides commentary on the events taking place. The narrator’s tone and opinions shape the reader’s understanding of the world of the novel. Imagine how different the magical world of Harry Potter would have been if the narrator were sympathetic to the dark arts, and Voldemort had been the hero! Before you begin writing, give your narrator a clear voice and point of view: are they optimistic or pessimistic, sarcastic or sincere? Which characters do they like and who do they revile?


Make complex characters

Since a Third Person perspective gives you the opportunity to take a walk in someone else’s shoes, take the time to think about who those people are. For readers to connect with your characters, they will need to speak with voices that are engaging and believable; they should have likes and dislikes, talents and fears, relationships with family and friends. Before you start writing, do a little homework! Write each persona a profile and a history. The more defined your characters are, the more realistic they will feel and the easier it will be to slip into their perspectives to tell your story. Their opinions and choices will feel more authentic and will present themselves more clearly to you if you have taken the time to craft a thorough personality and backstory for each character who inhabits your novel.


Ready to take the NYXT step and start writing? We’ve got you covered:



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