Of course, novels in first person go like this:

"Then I changed to my winged form. I hopped to the ledge. The kethel attacked me.

The voice is literally that of the main character. As if he sat down and spoke his story to you from beginning to end. I did this then that.

Whereas third-person novels go like this:

"Then Moon changed to his winged form. He hopped to the ledge. The kethel attacked him.

The narrator is "abstract". It has no identity and is just "the book" telling you such happened and such happened.

I was just reading the (outstanding!) novelist Martha Wells.

Her Raksura novels are in third-person (so, in the usual way, written by an "unknown, abstract" narrator in the past tense),


the action entirely follows the primary character. **

So it's "sort of" first-person...

So, indeed:

you could "convert" every single sentence of the book to first person; literally every single sentence could be changed to "I did blah..." rather than "Moon did blah...".

We hear (only) about Moon's actions and thoughts (just as in 1st person) and indeed we (only) "go" where Moon goes (just as in 1st person).

I was wondering, is there actually a term for this?

** Just to confuse matters, there are a few short passages in a later book in the series that arguably "breaks away" from the main character, but let's leave that out of the example.

  • 2
    Writing.SE? – Mari-Lou A Jul 23 '18 at 1:35
  • 1
    Do you just mean the viewpoint character? This has nothing to do with linguistics. – tchrist Jul 23 '18 at 2:12
  • Writing has a tag for viewpoint, although Literature does not. Wikipedia’s Narration entry seems to cover this. – tchrist Jul 23 '18 at 2:25
  • hi TC. yes, of course writing has a tag for viewpoint - where writers discuss questions like "Should I use such and such viewpoint when writing my vampire novel." SWRs are for here. – Fattie Jul 23 '18 at 2:41
  • thanks for the link to the wikipedia article (which, oddly, kind of uses the term in passing but doesn't outright define it - I only know the term thanks to the excellent and perfect answer of Laurel below.) – Fattie Jul 23 '18 at 2:42

This is a third person limited point of view:

Third-person Limited Narration or Limited Omniscience: Focussing a third-person narration through the eyes of a single character. Even when an author chooses to tell a narrative through omniscient narration, s/he will sometimes (or even for the entire tale) limit the perspective of the narrative to that of a single character, choosing for example only to narrate the inner thoughts of that one character. The narrative is still told in third-person (unlike first-person narration); however, it is clear that it is, nonetheless, being told through the eyes of a single character. A famous example of this form of narration is James Joyce's "The Dead" (in Dubliners). A narrative can also shift among various third-person-limited narrations.
Definition of Third-person Limited Narration or Limited Omniscience from cla.purdue.edu

Third person limited, also known as third person close, tells us the story using pronouns such as he and she but only gives us access to what the protagonist thinks and feels, and we cannot know more than the protagonist knows.
Third Person Limited (and More)

  • While I absolutely think you for the answer, I wish there was a better reference, something more definitive like a dictionary or something academic. That www link is a bit of a "blog post", you know? – Fattie Jul 23 '18 at 1:57
  • 1
    @Fattie done... – Laurel Jul 23 '18 at 2:03

What you're referring to is the POV - "point of view":

Point of view is the angle of considering things, which shows us the opinion or feelings of the individuals involved in a situation. In literature, point of view is the mode of narration that an author employs to let the readers “hear” and “see” what takes place in a story, poem, or essay.

A first-person narrative is as if the author is telling their own personal account story of what happened to them, whereas a third-person narrative is from the POV of the character the author is focusing on.

A POV can be "omniscient" (the author reveals things that individual characters couldn't know), but in your example the author chooses to keep the narrative much more tightly controlled, i.e. strictly the main character's POV.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.