Storytelling guide

Third person writing: mastering the art of omniscient storytelling

Third person writing is a perspective that offers writers a unique lens to craft their tales. This viewpoint, especially the omniscient variant, allows storytellers to weave intricate narratives, offering audiences a bird’s-eye view of the story’s world, its characters, and their innermost thoughts.

1. Understanding Third Person Omniscient

At its core, third person omniscient writing is like having a storyteller who knows everything. This narrator isn’t limited by time, space, or knowledge. They can delve into the past, present, and future, revealing the innermost thoughts and feelings of any character. For instance, in “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, the narrative style gives readers insights into the adventures and emotions of each of the Pevensie siblings, allowing for a richer story experience.

2. The Power of an All-Knowing Narrator

An omniscient narrator is like a guide with an all-access pass. They can introduce readers to a multitude of characters, each with their unique perspectives and emotions. In “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, the shifting viewpoints offer a comprehensive look at life during wartime, from the nobility to the common soldiers, providing a multi-faceted narrative that’s both broad and deep.

3. Expansive World-Building with Third Person

The canvas of third person writing is vast, allowing writers to paint worlds in broad strokes and intricate details alike. This perspective offers a bird’s-eye view, enabling the creation of sprawling landscapes that stretch beyond horizons, cities bustling with life, and quiet hamlets with their own tales. Every mountain peak, winding river, and ancient ruin can be described, giving depth to the story’s setting. For instance, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” Middle-Earth isn’t just a backdrop; it’s a character in its own right. From the Shire’s green meadows to Mordor’s fiery chasms, each locale has its own mood, culture, and history.

But it’s not just about geography. Third person writing also allows for the development of rich cultures and societies. Writers can delve into customs, traditions, and the daily lives of people, providing readers with a sense of immersion. They can introduce festivals, rituals, and even the political intrigues that shape the world. Think of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire,” where the politics of Westeros are as crucial as its map, and every house has its customs, sigils, and mottos.

Moreover, historical backdrops can be woven seamlessly into the narrative, offering context and depth. Past events, legends, and myths can influence present actions, adding layers to the plot. In “Lord of the Rings,” the history of the One Ring, the rise and fall of Sauron, and the ancient alliances all play pivotal roles in the story’s events. Through third person writing, authors can craft worlds that are not just settings, but living, breathing entities that captivate readers, making them yearn to explore every nook and cranny.

4. Crafting Deep Character Insights

Third person omniscient allows for a deep dive into characters. It’s not just about actions; it’s about motivations, fears, and dreams. In “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, readers not only witness Katniss Everdeen’s actions in the arena but also understand her motivations, her fears for her sister’s safety, and her feelings about the Capitol’s oppression.

5. The Do’s and Don’ts of Third Person Writing

Navigating the vast landscape of third person omniscient writing can be both exhilarating and daunting. This perspective provides a panoramic view of the story’s world, but with that comes the responsibility of wielding this power judiciously. Let’s delve deeper into the best practices and common pitfalls of this narrative style.

5.1. Do’s:

  1. Maintain Consistency: Once you’ve chosen a particular style or tone for your narrative, stick to it. If you’re diving deep into one character’s emotions, ensure that it serves the story and isn’t just a fleeting dive. Example: In J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, even though the story is primarily from Harry’s perspective, the narrative occasionally offers insights into other characters, but always in a manner consistent with the overall storytelling.
  2. Smooth Transitions: When shifting from one character’s viewpoint to another, use clear transitions. This can be achieved through chapter breaks, distinct section dividers, or even skillful narrative cues. Example: In George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire,” each chapter is from a different character’s perspective, making transitions clear and reader-friendly.
  3. Deepen Character Insights: Use the omniscient viewpoint to offer readers deeper insights into characters – their motivations, fears, and dreams. This adds depth and richness to the narrative. Example: In “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien, readers not only witness Frodo’s journey but also understand Sam’s unwavering loyalty and Gollum’s internal conflict.

5.2. Don’ts:

  1. Avoid Excessive “Head-Hopping”: Rapidly jumping between characters’ thoughts can disorient and confuse readers. If you wish to present multiple perspectives in a scene, do so with clear intent and structure. Example of what to avoid: In a conversation between three characters, constantly shifting between each of their internal thoughts in rapid succession can muddle the narrative.
  2. Don’t Overwhelm with Information: Just because you can provide insights into every character’s mind doesn’t mean you should. Be judicious in choosing when to delve deep and when to stay on the surface. Example: While it might be tempting to explore the backstory of every character in a crowded scene, doing so can detract from the main narrative focus.
  3. Avoid Being Too Detached: One risk of third person omniscient is becoming too distant or impersonal. Ensure that the narrative voice retains warmth and connection to the characters and story. Example of what to avoid: Describing a character’s heartbreak merely as “She felt sad” instead of delving into the depth of her emotions and painting a vivid picture of her experience.

Third person omniscient writing is a powerful narrative tool, but like all tools, it requires careful handling. By being mindful of these do’s and don’ts, budding writers can craft engaging, clear, and emotionally resonant tales that captivate readers from start to finish.

6. Transitioning Between Scenes and Characters

Smooth transitions are crucial in third person omniscient writing. Whether it’s shifting from one character’s perspective to another or moving between different settings, the flow should be seamless. George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series masterfully handles these transitions, guiding readers through the intricate plots of Westeros and beyond.

7. Tips for Budding Writers

Mastering third person writing is a journey, one that requires patience, practice, and a keen understanding of narrative techniques. One of the foundational principles to remember is consistency. Whether it’s the tone, voice, or depth of insight into characters, maintaining a steady narrative approach ensures clarity and keeps readers engaged.

Diversifying one’s reading palette can also be immensely beneficial. By analyzing narratives across various mediums – be it novels, short stories, movies, or even video games – budding writers can gain insights into the versatility of third person writing. Observing how different authors handle shifts in perspective, delve into characters’ minds, or describe settings can provide valuable lessons. For instance, studying the intricate world-building of J.R.R. Tolkien, the character depth in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works, or the cinematic narrative techniques in movies like “The Shawshank Redemption” can offer varied perspectives on third person storytelling.

Also, understanding how to write from other perspectives can be useful. (ex. check out my post on First Person POV.)

7.1. Quick Tips for Third Person Writing Mastery:

  1. Stay Consistent: Once you choose a narrative tone or depth, stick to it throughout your story.
  2. Diversify Your Reading: Explore works across genres and mediums to understand varied third person techniques.
  3. Practice Rewriting: Take a scene written in first person and try rewriting it in third person. Notice how the mood and insights change.
  4. Journal as Your Character: This helps in understanding their psyche, making it easier to write their thoughts and emotions in third person.
  5. Seek Feedback: Share your third person narratives with peers or writing groups. Fresh eyes can offer insights into areas of improvement.
  6. Study Transitions: Pay special attention to how seasoned authors transition between scenes or characters. This can help in avoiding common pitfalls like “head-hopping.”

With dedication, continuous learning (ex. check out this blog post from ProWritingAid on “How to Write in Third Person Point of View”), and regular practice, writers can harness the power of third person writing to craft narratives that resonate deeply with readers, transporting them into worlds both familiar and fantastical.


Third person omniscient writing is a powerful tool in a writer’s toolkit, offering versatility and depth. By mastering this perspective, budding writers can craft narratives that resonate, engage, and leave a lasting impact on readers. Embrace this viewpoint, experiment with it, and watch your stories come alive in ways you never imagined.