Free Independent Discourse

By Salmaan Dewar Writing Tips 9 Comments on Free Independent Discourse


So this is my first blog entry.  I’ve never blogged before, about anything so its all very exciting.

I’m Salmaan Dewar from Canberra, Australia.  I’m a father, a husband and an I.T geek, but most of all a writer.

I say writer and omit the “aspiring” or “wannabe” part because, as I was informed recently by @got_angst (David J Pedersen), “you either write, or you don’t. There
is no ‘Wannabe.'”  Its amazing how much this little bit of advice affected me for the better and helped launch me into writing. Please check out David J Pedersen on twitter and his novel “Angst” which is getting great reviews!

So what do I write? I’m so far working on a fantasy novel which is still taking shape. I’m unsure of the direction it will ultimately take although I do have a general idea of the plot.  Its just a  question of “Am I feeling Lovecraftian? Shall I add tentacles?” or other pertinent questions which I’m sure will have me tossing and turning at night.

Introductions aside, I’d like to talk about somethign that I discovered recently, first by accident and then in a more formal fashion, and that is:   Free Indirect Discourse.

So what is Free Indirect Discourse?

Free Indirect Discourse is a narrative technique which combines aspects of third person and first persons points of view.

I first discovered its existance when listening to the extended version of the audio book of Stephen King’s “The Stand”.

Here I was listening away (I am a chronic insomniac so I put the headphones in and listen until I drop off!) and something about a chapter featuring one of the book’s protagonists, a  chap by the name of Larry Underwood, blew me away although at first I didnt realise what it was.

In this chapter the story’s narrator was narrating the trials of Larry in third person, yet.. somehow slipping into a casual speech as though it was Larry himself doing the narrating; as though in this chapter the narrator had reverted to using Larry’s own mannerisms and vocabulary in describing the events.

Now I cant for the life of me find the exact passages that I’m thinking of from “The Stand” as I dont own the text, but consider the following basic (and slightly goofy) examples:

  1. Indirect discourse: He pulled his gun from its holster. Today would be a great day to die, he thought.
  2. Direct discourse:  He pulled his gun from its holster and said, “Today is a great day to die.”
  3. Free indirect discourse: He pulled his gun from its holster. What a day it was for death.


Now if you’re paying attention (and invariable you are!), you should be able to see the differences between these examples.    See Jeff Chapman’s blog for a few more examples and examples of some authors known for using FID.  (

What I find really exciting about the Free Indirect Discourse (FID) is that it forms a synthesis between the kind of language and mannerisms that the character themselves would use and that of the narrator.It allows you to provide some of the urgency and intimacy of first person point of view or perspective, all the while retaining it within third person perspective.
This is a great way of bringing the reading audience a little closer to the characters than they would normally be through traditional direct and indirect discourse, without actually putting them inside the head of the protagonist, such as in first person perspective.

If you want to discover more about this (and MUCH more) I highly recommend the lecture series “The Art of Reading” by Professor Timothy Sprugin, published by The Teaaching Company.  (see:

You can follow me (if you dare!) on twitter:   @herodfel



  • Share:
  • Damien
    Posted on June 27, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Woohoo fantastic post!

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on June 28, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Hi Salmaan! What a wonderful first post. Free Indirect Discourse sounds a very interesting concept. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ciara Ballintyne
    Posted on June 28, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Salmaan! You didn’t tell me you were blogging for Damien! I do so love it when my friends become friends 🙂

    I think Free Indirect discourse is otherwise also know as Deep Third. It’s when you go so deep into a character in third person that it contains the level of emotional detail and inner thoughts you expect in first. It’s traditional to stick to one viewpoint characterwhen using Deep Third, but Stephen King is just so damn good he can break a lot of rules the rest of just can’t and make it work.

  • Damien
    Posted on June 29, 2012 at 10:06 am

    So you know each other? Okay I want the gossip…. now!

  • Amanda Fanger
    Posted on June 29, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Great post and awesome points! I actually do this in my writing quite a bit (not too often though!) and it really does help if you’re trying to convey a certain attitude or line of thought from a character’s perspective while staying in third person. I didn’t know what the technique was called, however, so thank you for sharing! Look forward to reading more from you!

  • Salmaan Dewar
    Posted on June 29, 2012 at 10:51 am

    There is no gossip – She is herself and I cower in terror!

    I learned about your site through one of her tweets.

  • veronica
    Posted on June 30, 2012 at 11:39 am

    This post has been very helpful to me. I will attempt to rewrite a few chapters of my story using FID. It is fundamental to my story that the reader can feels closer to certain characters than what 3rd person narrative can offer. Again, thanks!

  • Salmaan Dewar
    Posted on June 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks. I didnt really give great examples but you can do some more searching on the net and find some more. I’m not sure i’d recommend constantly writing in FID but a tasteful sprinkle of it certainly does bring the reader closer to the characters. Glad you liked. 🙂

  • Robert (@unfinishedarts)
    Posted on July 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    This is great! Last night actually I was doing some editing on threw beginning of my first chapter and ran across a couple if instances of this technique and I wondered what it was called and if there were any rules that governed it’s use. You seem to have done my research for me. Thanks!

Comments are closed.

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Google PlusVisit Us On YoutubeCheck Our Feed