I'm writing a novel in the close third person POV. I want to shift occasionally into first person thought, as in the example below. Does it seem awkward?

He gave up his rent-controlled Los Angeles apartment, put his car in storage, liquidated his bonds and stocks (the corporate world was generous to valuable employees) and took off to explore the simple life. Remote places with unassuming populaces, unwired and nonjudgmental. Exotic food and exot—esoteric women. A few drugs, a lot of booze. Living on the cheap. Escape from the rat race USA into village languor. Ah, Amalia, how I miss you, but you chose sensibly, and Agostino was a better man.

“It wasn’t a snap decision.” Clark nibbled on his bottom lip. 


Seated throughout the café, ignoring their drinks, customers were glued to their laptops and phones, swiping and inputting. Even the people in groups were more engaged with their devices than each other. As if in reprimand, the café’s many speakers blared a song contrasting the carefree days of youth to the drab responsibilities of adulthood.

When he stroked his phantom beard, shaved off a week ago, he recalled Amalia’s fingers probing the growth. His Portuguese girlfriend had called it “boêmio,” unkempt, gray and lopsided, grown on foreign soil beneath freedom’s broad flag. Now back in America, with a job search underway, he had to clean up his act. Not without regret, he’d laid off the heavy drugs and even gotten his medical marijuana certificate. In LA after the new administration had reinstated the Fedlax Program, those green dispensaries had sprung up on every other block.

From his seat, Clark had a view of the entrance, parking lot and sidewalk, which suited his appetite for observation, the wellspring of his chosen but abandoned career. Outside the window, a man he had seen every day during his two-week job search at the café appeared Despite the balmy weather, the man wore a watch cap as usual, from which stringy gray hair hung to his shoulders and stuck to the red-flannel bandana about his neck. He shouldered two bursting garbage bags and walked head down as if into a hard wind.

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    How does your second example relate to the question? It doesn't seem to contain any first-person thoughts.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 14:00
  • @F1Krazy If you're referring to the line “It wasn’t a snap decision.” Clark nibbled on his bottom lip., I only used that to show how it would come out the first person and go back to third. If you're referring to the "add," I just wanted to get more thought from Mary about close third person.
    – Zan700
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 14:23

2 Answers 2


This will work fine! What you actually do is showing the thought. You could put it between quotes and add 'he thought' but that would really disrupt the reading! A publisher usually will put the words in italic to signal that it's a thought.


Very close third person normally presents the thoughts of the point-of-view character as they appear to that character.

The only problem with that sentence may only be a factor of this bit appearing in isolation. It appears, as an excerpt, to a distant summary of what he did, not in close third at all. The bit of dialog at the end makes it seem that it is, in fact, his reflection on what he did. May need to be more clearly close in context.

  • I appreciate your answer, but I'm not going for stream of consciousness. Everything is mediated through Clark, and all his thoughts reflect what is taking place around him, frequently through his opinions and memories. No external narrator makes any judgements about Clark or other characters. True, there isn't emotional intensity in this scene. I've added a couple of more passages from the scene to see if you' feel the same way about them (that I'm not writing in close third person).
    – Zan700
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 14:27
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    @Zan700 I'm confused - you say you're not writing in close third person, but at the start of the question you say you are? Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 17:36
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    @DM_with_secrets I am writing in close third person: the story is mediated through my POV character. When my character has intense or crucial thoughts, I put them in italic. However, another way to emphasize intense, emotional thoughts might be to switch to the first person, just as if the POV character were saying something aloud. Would this be confusing for the reader? Would the reader get the strategy? I added a couple of passages to the post to elicit Mary's opinion on my contention that I am writing in close third person POV, admittedly a complex and nuanced subject.
    – Zan700
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 17:59
  • @Zan700 Oh, I see, sorry - I thought when you said "that I'm not writing in close third person" that was your own statement, but I see now that you were referring to Mary's opinion. Honestly, I'm not fond of the distinction between 'close' or 'distant' perspective at all, especially not if a work has to stick to one or the other - I think changing distance within a story is perfectly natural. Personally I would use italics for thoughts in first but not in third (within a third person story, I mean). And I like your style :) Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 18:17
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    @DM_with_secrets I agree with your point about the distinction between close and distant. Sometimes I do fragment thoughts, usually in emotionally charged situations, or let things flow uninterrupted from the outside world, but I think that if the text attaches sensibly to the POV character, that's "close" enough. I'm glad you like my style. There's a novel's worth of it, so I hope it works.
    – Zan700
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 18:50

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