Hello everyone and welcome back to another Theory Thursday. Last week I broke down why a story’s setting is important. You should check that out if you haven’t already. I explained why a story’s setting is so fundamental. I believe that narration is another fundamental aspect of storytelling as how a story is told majorly impacts how readers respond to it.
There are different types of narration and I am going to dedicate different Theory Thursdays to breaking down each of the different types of narrative, similar to how I’ve been breaking down poetic devices over a number of weeks.
Today’s Theory Thursday is all about the third-person narrative, so let’s dive into #theorythursday.
What is a third-person narrative?
When a story is being narrated in the third-person, it is being told by a narrator who is outside of the story and not part of it. A third-person narrative tells the story from the perspective of someone who watched the events take place, and that person is now relaying that information to the reader.
A third-person narrative will read a little something like this, “Kate sat down at her desk and prepped herself for a day of study. She plugged her laptop into charge and scribbled down notes in her pink notebook. The coffee cup on her desk was refilled many times throughout the day, and after a few long hours, she finally felt confident about her exam.”
Please do not judge my creative abilities based on that example. The above paragraph is not a reflection of how I would go about writing a book – if I ever chose to do so. The above paragraph is simply a very straightforward example of how a third-person narrative works.
The third-person narrator will use pronouns such as “he, her, his, theirs, etc.” This is because the third-person narrator is telling a story about others rather than about themselves – that would be first-person narration, which I will discuss on another Theory Thursday.
Why is it important to understand the third-person narrator?
You can guess what I’m going to say, like any aspect of literary theory, I believe that learning about narration will only enhance one’s enjoyment of a text. Understanding how a story is told will enable you to fully understand the story, and I believe that how a story is narrated can impact how much we enjoy the story.
For example, I prefer stories that are told in the third-person. The third-person perspective is the most common perspective in fiction, which is why I chose to start with it as opposed to the first or second person.
I prefer stories that are told in the third-person because I feel that readers get a broader scope of the stories. When a story is told in the first-person, we are only getting one perspective and while this isn’t a bad thing, I prefer it when a third-person narrator is telling me about events that they witnessed because I feel as though I see the story in a much broader, more nuanced way, and I see all sides of the story rather than just one.
For example, if a character is in an argument, I think that a third-person narrator is more effective because we see the argument from the perspective of an uninvolved spectator – meaning we see both sides, rather than just getting one side of the story, which will always be biased. In saying that though, there are some wonderful advantages to a first-person narrative but I will discuss that in more detail when I am breaking down first-person narration.
Narration, like setting, is a fundamental aspect of fiction because it cannot be overlooked. I don’t think you can discuss a story without thinking about how the story is told and by whom it is told. A really interesting question to think about when reading any text, or watching any movie is how would this story change if it was told by someone else? I think that many movies are tackling that question especially considering the fact that in the last few years we’ve seen retellings of classic stories from the villain’s point of view. Entire movies are being made about the villain’s side of the story, and audiences are being asked to decide if the villain is really a villain after all. An example of this would be the movie Maleficent and more recently, Cruella.
That is why I think it is important to understand the different types of narration, because how a story is narrated greatly impacts the story and how audiences respond to it.
This has been a breakdown of the third-person narrative. This has been Theory Thursday. If you have any questions please do let me know. Happy Friday Eve everyone.