a writerly term for Point of View. Quite important when crafting fiction, especially. When one’s reading a novel, he or she will encounter a POV, sometimes labelled or confused with Voice. Here’s an example of third person POV and following, the first person POV.
“She felt strongly she shouldn’t poke around the study of Miss Manners. Yet, she was sure there were likely private matters squirreled away in those intriguing cubby holes of the roll-top or stuffed in amongst the slipcased files lining the shelves. But, on the other hand, perhaps she could justify just a quick scan of the possibilities.”
“I scolded myself, poking around the study of Miss Manners. Private matters here, squirreled away. Yet, those intriguing cubby holes of the roll-top lured me. Or, perhaps I’ll find some handwritten notes stuffed amongst the slipcased files lining those shelves. What harm, really, from a quick scan?”
These are written to illustrate the contrast and different degree of impact. Yes, the third person could be revised to lend a greater sense of engagement or immediacy, intimacy or revelation of the character’s inner monologue. Let’s try it.
“She scolded herself, poking around the study of Miss Manners. Private matters here, squirreled away. Yet, those intriguing cubby holes of the roll-top lured her. Perhaps she’d find some handwritten notes stuffed amongst the slipcased files lining the shelves. What harm, really, from a quick scan?”
As noted, the third person becomes more effective as rewritten but must rely on italics to convey interior monologue. Why not just put the passage in first person and eliminate this third person narrator, this voice-over intruder separating the reader and the character? Why not avoid this interpreter who rushes in to explain the character’s actions or reactions? Let the character and readers develop their own communication. Reserve the author's voice for background, not center stage.
I consider first person fiction typically stronger and more effective than third person. The third person narrative risks what’s called authorial intrusion. Author Intrusion wedges itself into the discussion, often disrupting the relationship developing between the reader and the protagonist. (Or antagonist for that matter.)
It’s subtle, but careful and critical readers recognize it and find such annoying when they want to sit across the table and share a cup of coffee with the main or important characters on a one-to-one, face-to-face basis. Do they really want this outsider inviting himself, joining in, sitting down, this author butting in and telling the reader what to think, interpret, understand, suspect, expect?
Here’s something to think about. Would The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird create greater impact if written in third person? Would Nick Carraway and Scout Finch plant themselves more deeply in our memory if relegated to some third person status?