Is it legitimate (acceptable) to use a 3rd person POV approach with the narration intentionally being a bit wobbly?

  1. I'm using an alternating 3rd person POV structure. One character (Let's call her Jane) refers to her mother (Aliana) as Mama. But I'm using the woman's name in the narrative, not "Mama." Example:

Jane said, “I wonder if there will be more puppies in this litter."

“We expect fewer.” The bluntness of Aliana’s statement was a punch to Jane’s gut.

“Fewer? Mama, puppies are the only thing worth living for!”

I could change Aliana in the second line to 'Mama,' but this quickly becomes tiresome to me as a reader. I'd rather use the name. I've heard conflicting advice here and am seeking some clarity.


  1. When another character enters a house for the first time, he can describe the paint color and the smell of something in the oven. That's clear character POV territory. But I'd like to add in commentary about what he is smelling, something like this:

...as though something was about to come out of the oven, but some might say the product never quite lived up to the promise.

He has no way to know that what he smells isn't going to be as good as he hopes, but I'd like to tuck this sort of thing in, anyway. It seems like a POV breach, but my instincts say this is OK.

Is this considered a weak POV and if so, is it OK? Is there a name for this?

1 Answer 1


This is perfectly normal.

It would be weird if the narrator used "Mama" in your first example. "Jane's mother" might be acceptable, but just using "Aliana" is perfectly fine and clear.

About your second example: the narrator can of course "look into the future" or just in the other room and thereby tell that it's not quite what the character thinks it is. There is no reason why he would have to stick to what the character smells.

I think your examples are fine and this style is acceptable. In fact, I don't really see why you would think it's wrong in the first place. Imagine your narrator as a character - maybe he is omniscient or looking at it as if it was a memory, but he is still a character and as such he should be able to distinctly name other characters by names he would find appropriate and comment on things as he sees fit. He has a personality of his own.

  • Thank you. Some people tell me that the only acceptable narration is what the character knows, and only their mannerisms should come through in the narration. My instincts along with your comments.
    – SFWriter
    Jan 10, 2018 at 17:58
  • @DPT If you are using a generic third person narrator as your texts suggest he should (at least in my opinion) just be viewed as another character. He has quirks, favourite words, interests, distastes, ... all that stuff that every character has, which makes your examples perfectly fine.
    – Secespitus
    Jan 10, 2018 at 18:03
  • Aha. So I have alternating POV (one chapter follows the guy, next chapter follows the girl) ... with an additional character who is my narrator. The narrator respects the POV of each chapter but has some independent thought as well. yes? Or is this 3rd omniscient instead of 3rd limited?
    – SFWriter
    Jan 10, 2018 at 18:05
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    @DPT I like to think of it as a little angel (or devil) on the shoulder of the character. He is focused on the character and can perfectly describe what the character sees, but he still has his own thoughts, his own style of talking and he can look around to describe things the character is not paying attention to. Others like to take a "video recording" approach or some narrator who reads a story to his kids, ... How did you imagine your narrator while writing these examples?
    – Secespitus
    Jan 10, 2018 at 18:08
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    @DPT Then your examples are fine. By the way: you might want to take some time to flesh out your narrator if you haven't done so yet. What does this guardian angel like? What character traits from his fosterling (is that the correct word?) does he not like? Can he stop the time to take a look around but not influence it (stopping time is something I use in situations like a bullet is fired at the main character)? Are there antagonists the guardian angel recognizes? What does he/she think of the characters friends and family?...
    – Secespitus
    Jan 10, 2018 at 18:41

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