Adventures in the 3rd Person – Shifting Perspective

Oh, the places we will go. That was my big epiphany this morning in pondering the 3rd person narrative style vs. the 1st person narrative style. The ability to go places a first person narrator could not go, or at least could not go without a great deal of machination.

I suspect my fascination on the differences between 1st and 3rd person seems a bit self-indulgent and of course it is. But if it gets me to noodle a bit about how to use 3rd person more wisely (having no experience in it) then I think it is doing its job (showing how easy it is to rationalize ones self-indulgence).

I’m starting to gain an understanding of how the 3rd person could open the door to a larger perspective. You can go backwards in time or forwards in time. You can be with this character and then that one. Obviously, a 1st person narrator can tell stories of other times and other characters but those instances are limited to what others (people or books or whatever) have told them. No first-hand knowledge.

So while that opens up the realm of available knowledge immensely, removing most barriers to what I can know as a narrator, it also requires one to choose wisely what one knows and conveys. Basically there is no inherent filter as in the 1st person. You have to create the filter.

I was also thinking that moving to the 3rd person is like trading narrative intimacy for knowledge. But not sure if that is true. I can think of examples where the 3rd person narrative was quite intimate, but for the ones I can think of I am pretty sure the author, the narrator and the main character were all the same person even though they were presented as distinct, another bit of machination.

I sense if I went down the intimate 3rd person path I would need to contrive a way to make that work without basically writing in the 1st person. I don’t tend to like overt contriving in my own artistic expression so this might be on one of those times where knowing myself stops me from going down an incompatible path, creating the wrong kind of tension.

This does all seem a bit over analyzed. But since this is an experiment I figured I might as well treat it as one and noodle the possibilities before I jump in.

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