Category Archives: Stories

Point of View: Third Person Objective

It’s hard to know how often this perspective is really used because it’s somewhat overlooked. I have had the five perspective classifications in my head for so long that I can’t remember who first taught them to me. What I do remember is some teacher at some point telling me that this point of view (which I remember being referred to as both Third Person Objective and Third Person Limited) was even less popular than second person. If the sparse Wikipedia mention is any indication (it doesn’t even have its own page!), third person objective (TPO from here on because I am lazy) has gone from unpopular to nearly discarded.

This style, like second person, has a lot of intrinsic restrictions. The story you get in TPO is the same kind of story you would get from a private investigator who has been following your characters. He can describe what they did and said, but can give no true insight into their thoughts and motivations.

The basics of TPO are as follows:
– I and we are used only in dialogue
– All characters are referred to by name or by the distant pronouns he/she/they
– You cannot delve into any character’s thoughts, not even your protagonist’s

For example:

He sat in her seat at the kitchen table, placing his hands where hers had rested so many times.

“I still take care of your roses,” he said to the air.

The silence that reigned then was broken only by the ticking of the old clock hanging on the wall. He sat there for another minute and sighed.

“I should accept the fact that if you haven’t come back by now, you’re not going to.” He stood and gently pushed the chair back into place. “But I still feel guilty that no one will be here to take care of the roses once I leave.”

All the information you get from the segment above comes from her observable actions and the words he speaks aloud. Sticking to that, keeping yourself from accidentally filling in the blanks, if the hardest part of writing in TPO. An upside, however, is that you can peer through anyone’s window, peek into their lives (a peek that all three third person perspectives include).

Excepting this, TPO is the most distant point of view, watching but in no way involved. Think back to my investigator example–in a way, reading a book in TPO is more than a little like reading a PI’s report. Not that it’s never used successfully. In fact, one of my favorite short stories is in this narrative style: Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway, which you can read by clicking the title. However, unless you have a genius narrative idea like Hemingway’s, you’re probably better served by one of the other points of view.

See Also:
POV Overview
First Person
Second Person
Third Person Limited Omniscient
Third Person Omniscient

EDITED TO ADD (12/17/2016):

In my two Assassins novels, I make use of this point of view often. For those books, Discord and Nemesis, the TPO perspective allows me to give readers a look at what’s happening away from the narrator. I can give away secrets the narrator doesn’t know, or at least leave clues, and it adds suspense to the pacing of the books. Below is an example from Nemesis, and it is the very first section of the book:

The vicious squall battered the Sea of Japan, roiling the waves and sending high winds screaming across the water. Those waves crashed against the shores of the small, isolated island sitting between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Wind battered trees and displaced rocks on the island’s tall mountains.

Inside the Lyohwa Labs research facility on the northwestern edge of Etobih-lin, none of that could be heard. Especially not on sublevel two.

Lab six was a large, windowless room with a door that couldn’t be opened from the inside. Cameras in the corners were positioned to monitor everything, with no blind spots, but at this early hour of the morning, there didn’t seem to be much to watch. Only one woman—wearing a white, full-body, level A hazmat suit—was at work.

Hands braced on a backlit glass table, she stared through her faceplate at the rack of glass vials in front of her, furrows across her forehead. The vials seemed to glow with the light from the table, and the intensely green liquid was vibrant in the otherwise stark white and stainless steel room. Though her gaze jumped between the vial and the tools laid out in front of her, she ignored the alerts popping up on the wall-mounted screen to her left and the beeps of the various machines, all of them labeled LyoLabs.

“They’ll kill you if this works.” The words were quiet, but the distortion of her breathing apparatus gave them an ominous rasp. “Whatever. At least you won’t be here anymore, right?”

However cavalier the words seemed, her hands shook when she straightened and tried to lift a vial out of the rack with a pair of tongs. She took a deep breath, the sound made mechanical by her respirator. Her hands steadied. After lifting it clear of the rack, she turned and placed it in another on the epoxy resin workspace behind her.

Slowly, carefully, she extracted a small amount of the green liquid with a pipette and placed three drops into the brown mixture simmering in a beaker over a lit Bunsen burner. The color shifted as the bright drops swirled and dissolved into the bubbling liquid. From a vacuum-sealed jar on the table, she measured out 0.03 milligrams of an extremely fine powder. When she added it to the beaker, lines of dark blue spread through the mixture like ink, but when she stirred it with a thin glass rod, the solution cleared.

“Almost there.”

Another alert buzzed through the computer’s speakers. The tone was lower—a grating sound meant to draw attention—but she didn’t spare the screen more than a cursory glance.

The door behind her opened; the hiss of the airtight seal releasing would have made that obvious even if the door’s handle hadn’t clicked as it lowered and announced company.

A leanly muscled, olive-skinned guy wearing a LyoLabs security uniform walked into the room, a Colt handgun in his hand. He kept it pointed at the floor.

“I don’t care how impatient you are,” she said without turning around. “There is no possible way for me to make these machines work any faster. Either shoot me, or let me get back to my work.”


“Who else?” she muttered. “It’s not like you assholes let me have assistants anymore.”

He stopped at the wall display that had been flashing a red alert box. When he saw what was written there in bold black-and-white Korean letters, he cursed. When he crossed the room, his footsteps were heavy and quick. “Adila, we have to go. Now.”

“Go. Stay. Come. Work. I’m not a goddamn dog!” She slammed her hand down. The stirring rod clenched in her fist shattered when it hit the countertop. Releasing the broken pieces, she turned. “If you want me to figure this out, leave me alone and let me— Who are you?”

Though the gun-wielding newcomer was dressed as a guard, he looked like he might be twenty at the oldest. He seemed too young to be working there, but his dark eyes searched the room with purpose, and he held his Colt like someone with decades of experience shooting it.

“I’m your ticket out of here if you follow me,” he said. “But the offer won’t be worth anything in about four and a half minutes.”

Adila hesitated only a moment. In a burst of motion, she grabbed a flash drive and jammed it into one of the computers, activating a command to back up the data.

“Time is running out,” the guy warned. “Is that info worth our lives?”

“It’s worth a hell of a lot more than that.” Adila dumped the clear liquid from the bubbling beaker into the sink, then filled the beaker with a solution from a large bottle next to the sink, and poured the rest of the bottle’s contents and all of the green-filled vials down the drain. When the computer flashed Backup Complete, she ejected the flash drive and pressed it into her rescuer’s hand.

After executing a command to format the computer and wipe the drive clean, Adila followed the stranger out of the lab, slowly stripping the hazmat suit as she walked, dropping the pieces behind her.

As the suit fell away, the body underneath it became visible—and the scars that body wore. Old, healed burns from pinky finger to elbow up the side of her left arm. A misshapen bump that might have been a badly treated break. Thin lines were almost hidden in the natural creases of her neck, but they were too pale against her naturally tan skin to disappear completely.

Annyeong, fuckers,” she said as the door shut behind them.

Excerpts copyright Erica Cameron.

Point of View: Second Person

Wikipedia says:
The second-person narrative is a narrative mode in which the protagonist or another main character is referred to by employment of second-person personal pronouns and other kinds of addressing forms, for example the English second-person pronoun “you”.

An intriguing, difficult, sparsely used point of view, second person is also one of the least mentioned. I should probably also mention before I start that I don’t like this perspective much. It is at best hard and at worst impossible to sound natural writing in this viewpoint, and while it can be an effective tool in certain narrative situations (none of which come to mind right now…), I find the constant use of “you” pulls me out of the story. A lot of people (both readers and writers) would probably agree with me, but there are definitely those who don’t. Some of the most notable examples include Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club) in Diary, Jay McInerney in Bright Lights, Big City, and numerous short stories by  authors both famous and obscure. So, now that we’ve covered that, on to the actual subject.

The light that came through your window that morning was gray, sunlight filtered through the fog that had covered the town for over a month. But that morning, something felt different. You woke up instantly alert, as though someone had shouted your name, every cell tingling with a readiness for danger as adrenaline coursed through your blood. Mornings like that terrified you: something horrible and inescapable always seemed to follow.

Second person attempts to literally draw the reader into the story by placing them in the action. This allows a possible level of sympathy and empathy that the other points of view simply can’t match. The reader becomes the main character; the character’s problems become the reader’s, the losses and victories, the readers losses and victories. On the reverse side of this coin however, is the danger of alienating the reader. Because you’re making the reader the protagonist, they have to accept on some level that the character’s actions could reasonably be their own.

This is one of the other aspects that, personally, turns me away from second person in both books I read and ones I write. I find myself thrown out of the story entirely if “I” start saying and/or doing things completely contrary to my actual personality.

I’m sorry to say that because I have so little reading or writing experience in this style, I have nothing else to say about it. However, below are some links that may or may not prove useful to those who wish to learn more.

Novel Writing Help
The Writer’s Craft

See also: 
POV Overview
First Person
Third Person Objective
Third Person Limited Omniscient
Third Person Omniscient

Excerpt copyright Erica Cameron.

Point of View: First Person

Although I have no statistics to back up my claim, I would rate first person as one of the two most popular narrative styles. Especially in contemporary fiction. Why is this? What about this style of voice makes it so appealing? To explain the draw of first person, you first have to know what first person is.

According to Wikipedia: First-person point of view is a narrative mode where a story is narrated by one character at a time, speaking for and about themselves.

This is the least distant of all narrative voices. By using personal pronouns like I and we, the author creates a direct connection to the character telling the story. In this case, the narrator is a direct participant in the action and usually, though not always, the protagonist. through this style, readers see the world as the narrator does. The clip is an example of first person narrative and the opening paragraph of my Prince Charming project (for now, anyway…):

I suddenly decided that the status of teenager was the worst punishment ever inflicted on mankind. No other state of being was so completely able to take care of themselves yet kept entirely dependent on their elders. One of my father’s favorite phrases was “Just wait until you have a daughter,” but if it were up to him I’d be strapped into a chastity belt and locked in a tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon until I died. Sometimes I thought that would be a better fate than being so close to freedom I could touch it from the end of my six-inch leash.

Using this voice allows you to directly incorporate the narrator’s thought, feelings, reactions, and desires into the story, but it also entails dramatic restrictions. not only are you limited to the point of view of a single character, you are limited to their biases, prejudices, level of intelligence, physical capabilities, and everything else that makes them unique. You can only tell the reader things that this particular character knows or chooses to recognize.

Still, first person is a wonderful point of view and (obviously) one I use extensively. The ability to tell someone’s story in their own words is a powerful tool. It can help cruel character appear sympathetic, bring out the insights of an observant character, and employ the emotional magnetism of a character struggling through adversity. It can eliminate the need for direct, italicized thoughts and give the book a perspective it wouldn’t have had with an impartial, distant narrator. At the same time, you must be wary of the pitfalls and realize that not all characters make good storytellers, even if their tales are worth hearing. Luckily, that’s where the other points of view come into play…

See also: 
POV Overview
Second Person
Third Person Objective
Third Person Limited Omniscient
Third Person Omniscient

Excerpt copyright Erica Cameron

Inspiration: Rory’s Story Cubes

I have heard of countless ways to spark inspiration. Using the images on tarot cards, eavesdropping on public conversations, searching through public photo albums, etc. As many stories as there are in the world, there are ways to think them up. This one, though, is one of my favorites.

Packaged in a small orange box are nine, six-sided dice. Each side contains a different image. Each image could be interpreted in a hundred different ways. The result? Millions of combinations. And almost as many ways for a writer to make use of them.

The inside of the box describes a game-style setup where dice are rolled and then divided up among  group of players. The group comes up with a general theme (“The Beach,” “On an Airplane,” “At School,” etc.) and then take turns adding to the story with something related to the images on the dice they hold. This is a fun game and definitely a good ice breaker (especially at a writer’s conference!), but what if it’s just you? Personally, I look at these as an alternative to writing prompts.

When I feel like writing something new, something unrelated to the stories I’m already working on, I roll the dice. I choose at least three images and try to combine them into a story. Now, as a personal challenge, I limit myself to one handwritten page. I have the tendency to make things overcomplicated and let them develop further and further until I have another novel idea on my hands. It’s good practice and it’s fun, too. Below is an example of one of my prompts. The images I picked were fire, a bee, and a key. I have very little idea what is happening in these characters’ lives outside of this moment, but the moment is very interesting…

The phone call woke me up, but it was the voice on the other end that shook me to the core.

“There’s been a fire.”

I bolted up, the sheets so tangled that they almost choked me. “Where?” I barely breathed. It wasn’t possible. I didn’t have that kind of luck.

“Bee’s place.” Ted’s voice cracked. “She never got out.”

Bless the stars. She’d finally managed to do it. She’d always said she would go out in a blaze of glory, but I hadn’t thought she was speaking literally.

“Jesus Christ.” I heard Ted start sobbing, but I couldn’t think of anything to say that wasn’t meaningless except, “Do you need me to come down there?”

“No,” he gasped and started coughing. “No. I don’t want you to see this.”

I was already up and getting dressed. “It was a rhetorical question, Theodore.”

He couldn’t even argue with me. I said goodbye as I stepped onto my porch and there it was. As promised. I slowly picked up the envelope and took out a key and a note.

Take care of my Teddy, Beth. He’s a good boy, but he would never understand. I hope this will help.


For only $7.95, I think it’s more than worth it. You can get them at Barnes & Noble in their games department and probably most local bookstores that carry games, or order them online from a variety of places.

Update: California, Mexico, and Rip Tides

Two weeks ago, I returned from a two week vacation. I had a fantastic time visiting with friends on the other side of the country for the first week (HI MICHELE! :D) and spent the second week in San Jose del Cabo with my mom, my step-dad, and my sisters. Overall the trip was fabulous and included two highlights I wish I had more (or any!) pictures of: a So You Think You Can Dance taping (during finale week, too!) and the Breaking Dawn Concert Series stop in Los Angeles. For the SYTYCD taping they stole your cameras and cell phones before they even let you into the building (for obvious reasons) and my camera just doesn’t like no-flash dark room settings. Every picture I took during the Concert Series event was incredibly blurry. Either way, here for your viewing enjoyment are some of the highlights of my trip:

A mountain off the highway, and my sister with the OBELISK! (inside joke, sorry ;))
The view from the backyard of my friend’s friend’s house
People I do not get to see often enough, my sister and I with a huge version of the Breaking Dawn cover

Our group with LaVar Burton. Yes. Seriously. You know you’re jealous! 😉
The view from my step-dad’s house, my family horseback riding

The Sea of Cortez
Now, this next picture has quite a story attached to it, so I’m going to post it a little bigger than the others:

Ultimately, my sisters both got pulled under the water in a split second. Both of them just disappeared. I ran for them, but only ended up getting myself in trouble, too. Everyone survived, but the experience was harrowing. To say the least. In order to remember what happened and to help process the whole thing, I wrote it down. Eventually I plan on using this segment as part of a longer work–part of a short story or a novel–but for now it is what it is: a true account of five minutes of my life. Enjoy.

I saw her feet slip out from underneath her and I ran forward, still clutching my camera. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I should throw the damn thing to the side, but it was tied to my wrist and I couldn’t let it go. I stepped toward the surf, reaching for her hands, but the waves were closer and stronger than I thought. As soon as I stepped into the water, I felt the pull of the current. I tried to move back, but the sand was slipping out from under my feet too fast. My legs were suddenly out of my control. My hands and feet dug into the sand. Scrabbling to get a hold of something felt like trying to claw my way up a waterfall. Finally, I lost contact with the sand altogether. I was pulled into the curve of a wave and thrown in a circle. Somehow, my arm stuck straight up, trying in vain to hold my camera out of the water. Every time I surfaced, I searched for the others, the ones that had already been pulled under. My eyes found the beach and I saw people running toward the surf. I screamed. I just wanted out.

I saw a man running into the water with a red lifesaver. The thing glowed in his hands, a guiding light and my ultimate goal. But he couldn’t reach me. Not without endangering one more person. He threw the raft toward me, but it didn’t come far enough. I swam, no longer caring that my camera was beginning to resemble a fish tank. I swam, but for every stroke I took forward, the waves pulled me back five feet. The man reached for me while struggling to keep from becoming another victim as I desperately grasped for the red beacon that was quickly becoming my only source of hope. I had no idea if the others had been pulled to shore or not. I had no idea if anyone else had been pulled into the water on our account. All I knew was that death no longer seemed imminent when my hands closed around the plastic red buoy. I couldn’t tell when I started getting closer to shore or how the man was able to resist the pull of the current, but somehow my feet felt sand again.

Warm arms wrapped around my waist and dragged me up the shore, tugging me against the riptide and speaking to me. I just couldn’t understand what he was saying.

“Keep walking!” he shouted as I fell to my knees. “Get up and keep walking! You gotta keep walking!”

“I’m trying,” I sobbed. “I can’t.”

“Keep walking! Just move your feet!”

I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and I could feel my fingers digging into his back without ever consciously telling them to. My plastic red buoy had been replaced by this man who had risked his life to drag me out of water I hadn’t ever wanted to enter.

He dragged, cajoled, and pulled me up the steep slope of the beach. Each step took more energy out of me than I thought I had left. The inexorable pull of the waves lessened as the man tugged me free of the surf.