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When writing in limited third-person, would it pull a reader out of the story too much by having a memory from another character's perspective for a while? (Which I realise would make the story not limited).

For example: The narrator narrates Character A for the whole book, but Character B wants to tell Character A about a memory they have. So then, the narrator narrates Character B's experiences for a short while.

In movies and shows you often see moments when someone talks about something that happened and it brings the audience into this flashback and I wonder if that could be translated into a written narrative. The only other option I see/know of, would be to write a gigantic dialogue paragraph? Which personally, I would find a little boring because it feels limiting.

I'm curious for some thoughts :)

3 Answers 3

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If it's all third person limited except for that one scene, it's going to be a jar. Some readers may not even realize that you switched.

It may be wiser to consider if a pattern of other people's having a scene would work better.

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I've seen stories where they have a whole chapter dedicated to a different character. It will help with development from a different character; Whether it's the antagonist or a side character, this will help your story.

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The film Rashomon did this well, but it was based on In the Grove was a written story and it does use Third Person Limited. The story centers on two men (A wood cutter and a priest) who are telling a traveler about a recent court case that they had to testify in... the woodsman discovers the body of a murdered Samurai, who the priest last saw traveling with his wife. Somewhere in the gap between the priest seeing them, and the wood cutter's discovery, an altercation occurs between the Samurai, his wife, and a highway bandit which results in the samurai's death. Among the three participants, the theif, the wife, and even the samurai (channeled by a medium) offer the strangest court room experience ever. Not only do they tell wildly contradictory stories that the details couldn't have lined up... but they each admit to being the sole responsible party for the Samurai's death!

To pull this story off, there are a series of flashbacks within flashbacks, but in effect, the actions in the flashback scenes all reflect the imagination of the events that the characters describe as they happened. The trial scenes are done in such a way that one could easily write dialog for an audience member to speak during certain pauses... like a question from a judge or lawyer... that the character testifying responds too (Think like how Dora the Explorer waits for kids at home to shout the answer to the TV).

Essentially this means that the scenes based on memory are still third person limited, because we are relying on our own imagination to paint the picture. They are not actually happening. How could they? Three people claim the Samurai was killed only by themselves and no other party. Even the cast never was told who actually did it, because the point was that each party had equal motive to lie, (glory, shame, and the concealment of other crimes... in no particular order). So each scenario is left to the viewer's imagination to determine who they believe... and what that says about them as a person. Everybody lies... but as the traveler points out, one can accept the lie if it's interesting.

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