Any tips about writing in limited third person?
The most effective third-person limited essentially imitates first-person, but using “he/she/they” instead of “I”. You may also hear this method being called “close third-person limited”.
I like to think of third-person limited as spectrum for narrator closeness. The “closest” one directly imitates first-person and allows for unique character voice and thought exploration, wheres the “distant” one has a more clinical approach to writing. Both have times when they work, but I find that close third person limited tends to be the best option if the point of your writing is connect your readers to the scene (as it usually is).
So for writing third person limited…
- It’s easy to forget that you’re “stuck” in one character’s head for a scene, but it’s important to never “head hop”! “Head hopping” is when the narration jumps from one perspective to another, even for a singular sentence, and it creates reader confusion and messes up your scene. This is called limited narration for a reason.
- You can write thought just like exposition and without any filter words, just like in first-person (especially if you’re working with close third). You do not have to italicize thought.
- Be careful of the “too self-aware narrator”. You generally don’t pay attention to all the small details of your body language unless there’s a good reason to. Half the time you may not even realize you’re making a particular face until someone points it out, and third-person limited imitates being in someone’s head. The narrator will know how they feel and think, but they should not be describing themselves like they’re staring into a mirror all the time.
- You do still have to worry about narrator voice, but it can be more forgiving than writing in first-person. Look to things like word choice, language structure, and tone to create voice. Finding Character Voice may also help, if you struggle with it.
- If you want to change POV, there absolutely needs to be a clear scene break. A chapter break also works. Fortunately, you don’t have to slap a “this is ___’s scene” label on every switch, as long as you introduce the perspective within the context. (How early on depends on what you’re writing. Setting can get away with a not-obvious POV at first, but that’s not the same for character action. Still, it’s usually better to tell who the narrator is immediately.)
Those tips are what come to my head immediately (since you asked for general tips, I have to assume you didn’t want anything specific covered) so hopefully at least one of those is useful to you.
Good luck with your story!